"Theatre breaks the walls prisoners have constructed around themselves when they have been sentenced. It is therapeutic," said theatre-personality Hulugappa Kattimani, during the inauguration ceremony.

In their impeccable dialogues, choreographed moves and a dramatic flair, it is easy to forget that the artistes on stage had been convicted for serious crimes.

During the production of William Shakespeare’s King Lear, which was translated into Kannada and showcased here on Monday, around 80 inmates of Bangalore, Belgaum, Dharwad, and Mysore prisons shed their convict image and instead embraced their dramatic roles with ease.

“Theatre breaks the walls prisoners have constructed around themselves when they have been sentenced. It is therapeutic,” said theatre-personality Hulugappa Kattimani, during the inauguration ceremony. His organisation Sankalpa started the initiative to train prisoners in theatre. The aim, he said, was to change society’s image of themselves and to change the prisoner’s image of themselves.

He said that although many people had asked him if he ever feared the inmates of escaping during a production, Mr. Kattimani said: “When a reporter has asked that, a prisoner shot back saying that if he escaped, there was no one who could replace his role in the play.”

He added that staging a play in Mangalore was in some way a tribute to his guru B.V. Karanth, who was born in Bantwal taluk.

While commending the initiative, Superintendent of Police Abhishek Goyal and Mangalore City Commissioner of Police Seemant Kumar Singh said the play would give the inmates a chance to forget the past and showcase their talents.

The inauguration of the four-day theatre festival started with the distribution of bags as well as cheques of Rs. 25,000 given to 43 children of police personnel in the district for having secured high marks in their II Pre-University or class 10 examinations by industrialist Ronald Colaco and his son Nigel Colaco. Lamenting that initiatives to involve private companies to invest in the police infrastructure were lacking, Ronald Colaso said: “The police department is crucial to the running of the country, and yet police stations are small, overcrowded, with no facilities or even enough chairs and tables. I thought that by asking multinational companies to invest, better police stations could be built. But there has been no participation from the private companies here.”

Echoing the sentiment, Pratap Reddy, Inspector-General of Police (Western Range), said for the police to work efficiently, it was imperative for the corporations, artistes, and society in general to participate and aid the police.

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