Mounathinte Nilavili, a short film on the Cellular Jail in Andaman & Nicobar, tells the tale of the prison and its place in Indian history
S.N. Sreeprakash cherishes the Republic Day of 2010; the day he received the Andaman & Nicobar Islands' Lt. Governor's Commendation Certificate for his artistic pursuits. The Islands are home to this artiste, who settled there in 1986.
Perhaps it was his deep attachment to his new home on the Andaman & Nicobar Islands that motivated him to play the protagonist in a documentary on one of the most poignant memorials of the Indian freedom struggle on the Islands – the Cellular Jail or Kaalapani. Mounathinte Nilavili (Scream of Silence), a documentary on the jail, which was screened in the city on Wednesday, had Sreeprakash narrating the story of the Cellular Jail. The movie is like a collage that uses Sreeprakash's paintings in acrylic and water colour to narrate a harrowing episode in Indian history.
“The work has three perspectives – of the jail, of the inmates, and a direct report. Our aim was to convey the importance of this monument to the present generation; it is perhaps the first such attempt in Malayalam,” says Santhosh P.D., who directed the documentary scripted by V.R. Ajith Kumar, deputy director, Public Relations Department, Government of Kerala, and Dominic J. Kattoor, assistant professor, University College.
The Cellular Jail, now a national monument, was used by the British to house exiled political prisoners (read Indian freedom fighters), where they were kept in solitary confinement, brutally tortured to death or forced to commit suicide. The imposing jail building, built between 1896 and 1906, had 693 cells.
“Through 50-odd paintings the story of the prison is told. The experience has been heart-warming and painful,” says Sreeprakash. “Ajith came up with the idea sometime ago. But we couldn't do it then since there weren't the right visuals to complement the script. Later, Ajith suggested using his friend Sreeprakash's paintings and he reworked the script with Dominic sir,” says Santhosh, a producer with Victers Channel. D&S Combines has produced the documentary.
“I had done a few paintings of the jail for a client whose wife's great-grandfather was a prisoner there. This project came as a surprise. I consider it an honour,” he says.
A view of the jail, the arrival of the ships carrying the prisoners, the torture meted out to the prisoners, the gallows (where three people could be hanged at a time), the brutal jailor David Barrie (“just drew him from my imagination”) and Ross Island against the backdrop of the jail – all have been portrayed by Sreeprakash in the 25-minute documentary.
At home in Andaman
Sreeprakash works in the Amalgamated Statistical Cadre of Andaman & Nicobar Administration as Statistical Assistant.
A native of Karunagappally, he learnt the nuances of painting from his father, the late G. Narayana Kurup.
He takes pride in having sketched numerous facets of life on the Islands.
“I mingle with the tribes, sketch sitting in their houses, and have now become close to them. The tsunami of 2004 has devastated lives of the people in many parts of the Islands, yet, the land holds so much for everyone,” he says.