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How Dhaka professor plans to help prisoners act out a positive future

Theatrically inclined inmates will stage plays like Bangabandhu’s prison memoir ‘Karagarer Rojnamcha’ and Munier Chowdhury’s ‘Kobor’ in all the 68 jails of Bangladesh as part of a cultural festival that aims at giving the dispirited not only the much-needed recreational break but also an opportunity to prepare themselves to re-enter society.

At least, that’s the hope of three research scholars of the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Dhaka, who under the supervision of Prof Israfeel Shaheen, also plan to conduct research based on the activities of inmates in the country’s prisons over the next three years, apart from organising the plays.

According to Prof Ishrafeel, such research and cultural programmes specifically designed for the prison inmates in Bangladesh are unique “as the earliest expressions in modern Bengali theatre came through Munier Chowdhury’s ‘Kobor,’ which was written during his stay in prison and performed by his fellow inmates at Dhaka Central Jail in 1953”.

“Our research and cultural activities will take particular note of Bangabandhu’s autobiographical narratives from ‘Karagarer Rojnamcha’ and ‘Oshomapto Attojiboni’, episodes of which will be performed by inmates lodged in prisons across the country,” Prof Israfeel told UNB.

“We will visit Keraniganj Central Jail by the end of this month, in connection with this programme. Then we will go to Thakurgaon, Dinajpur and other districts,” he said, adding that the initiative aims at bringing a ray of hope to the dispirited, in turn, helping bring a positive change in the society.

The cultural activities will later make inroads into juvenile correctional centres, mental hospitals and rehabilitation centres across the country, said Prof Israfeel, an alumnus of Delhi’s National School of Drama. “We have got the required permissions from the university, Ministry of Home Affairs and the Department of Prisons.”

In his long career, Israfil has directed of over 40 plays, including Harold Pinter’s ‘The Birthday Party’, Henrik Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’ and ‘The Lady from the Sea’, Chekhov’s ‘Three Sisters’, and William Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’, ‘Twelfth Night’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Macbeth’.

Source: United News of Bangladesh