The strong connect between the proceedings of the play, “Shivarathri,” and the appeal made by a key character of the play after the show for the early release of prisoners for good conduct could hardly be missed at the Town Hall on Wednesday.

The play is being staged as part of a four-day theatre festival involving 80 prisoners from four jails of Karnataka organised by Sankalpa, an organisation floated by theatre exponent Hulagappa Kattimani and the Department of Prisons.

The appeal for the prisoners’ release pointed out the differences between the Government and the Governor and how it had come in the way of release of over 500 prisoners whose conduct has been termed good. “No prisoner has been released since 2006.

They have been waiting for an opportunity to unite with their parents, brothers and sisters,” said Dharanesh of Bangalore who played the role of Basavanna in the play.

On its part, the play highlighted the unacceptable methods of the State as seen in the attitude of the 12 Century King Bijjala through the war of words between him and his minister and reformer Basavanna.

Dharanesh, who, in the play, steals the hearts of audience through his witty dialogues and by highlighting how the laws and system have to be based on “dharma”, later in his speech narrated how everyone in the jail is not “bad” and how everyone outside the jail could not be termed “good”.

Only seconds before in the play, he was shown deserting King Bijjala and his kingdom of Kalyana, leaving him to march ahead in his “dark path” where good and bad things are not seen with same mirror. Basavanna goes to build a new world with righteousness rules.

Dharanesh, the star of the day, appreciated the directors of the play who “ate jail food” and trained them, did not see them as “criminals”.

In the play earlier, he was in full glow fighting against the world order that saw untouchables.

He touched a chord by calling a prostitute as his mother. Bijjala’s role was played with aplomb by Berappa.

City-based actor Lakshman Mallur felicitated the artistes. Kattimani said women prisoners’ participation in the play was path-breaking and thanked the Department of Prisons for facilitating it. The theatre festival concludes on Thursday evening.