Dancer Alokananda Roy’s effort has given new meaning to the lives of correctional home inmates.

What better way to serve humanity than to bring hope to inmates of correctional homes, many of whom are serving a life term, through music, dance, theatre and the power of love? Dancer Alokananda Roy with support from B.D. Sharma, retired IG of West Bengal Correctional Services, has done wonders with these inmates, who have undergone a metamorphosis through aesthetic therapy.

The culture therapy has had an overwhelming success in correctional homes throughout the state and one such motivation was Tagore’s ‘Valmiki Pratibha,’ which has been staged professionally at different places including the capital. ‘Totahkahini’ was another production where the costumes, masks, props and sets were designed and made by the inmates.

Alokananda Roy believes that everyone deserves a second chance. With love and compassion, she has turned the uninitiated into artists, who are now accepted by the audience. The packed houses are a proof of this. Their third production, ‘Mokshagati,’ a dance drama, in association with Touch World and Birla Academy of Art and Culture (which organises such therapeutic programmes) was staged at the G.D. Birla Sabhagar, Kolkata, recently. The musical choreography on the life of the King Ashoka was partly played out on stage and partly on screen. It narrated the major episodes of Ashoka’s life including his wedding, coronation, the devastation and massacre of the Kalinga war, renunciation of cruelty and his transformation into the pious, by embracing Buddhism.

Conceived, choreographed and directed by Roy, the striking features of the production were the fine team-work, discipline and synchronised movements of the 72 inmates. Their expressions and energetic execution showed involvement and confidence. The amazing aspect was that Roy’s training had put them at par with professionals.

The idea of introducing Kalinga as a living being was innovative and Subhojit Sarkar portrayed the character with his agile, athletic movements. Roy played multiple roles as narrator, as Mokshada preaching the cultural ethos and psyche of Mother India, village dance teacher, Bharati Amma, Ashoka’s mother as well as Kalinga’s mother. She looked charming as usual, especially as Mokshada.

In spite of the skilled recital, the screen presentation could not match the stage performances and appeared a bit lengthy and weak. Nigel Akkara on screen looked highly impressive as Ashoka. B.D. Sharma’s singing of Tagore’s ‘Aguner Paroshmani Chhoao Praney’ was soul-stirring, and apt. Tanmoy Bose’s music, the wonderful light design by Dinesh Poddar and the entire presentation brought a sense of serenity. The costumes were stitched by the inmates. It was not the competence of the performers that mattered, but their dedication and urge to change and do something with love that was important that made it worth watching.