Art for reform

Art director Ratno Rudro is helping rehabilitate adolescent inmates at Tihar Jail to become self sufficient with visual art classes. Meanwhile, Morning Raga sessions are having a positive effect on convicted prisoners

TIihar Jail is known to be styled as a correctional institution. Its main objective is to give its inmates an opportunity to lead a normal life by providing them with useful skills, education, and the ability to earn a livelihood. The aim is to improve the inmates’ self-esteem and strengthen their desire to improve. To engage, rehabilitate, and reform its inmates, Tihar had used music therapy that involves music-training sessions and concerts. The prison has its own radio station, run by inmates; there is also a prison industry within the walls, manned entirely by inmates, which bears the brand Tihar.

This time, the inmates are part of visual art workshops conducted by leading art director, Ratno Rudro, with the help of Legends Of India, a registered society working towards preserving Indian art forms. Alok Kumar Verma, DG (Delhi Prison), Tihar who played a pivotal role in organising these classes recently announced, “the training sessions shall be held every fortnight for adolescents, as their rehabilitation is of major concern.”

Art director, Ratno Rudro with an inmate at the visual art workshop in Tihar Jail
Art director, Ratno Rudro with an inmate at the visual art workshop in Tihar Jail

The art classes will also bring out the creative side of the inmates and help jail authorities to get an insight into their thinking. Ratno Rudro, external faculty was assisted by eight artists from a management and mass communication institute to guide inmates in this art project. Over 100 inmates were present for the art session held on June 24. They were taught to use hand and foot prints creatively by applying paint to make small leaves and bushes, birds etc. At the end, Dipayan Mazumdar, Chairman, Legends of India, announced that 20 adolescent inmates would be handpicked based on their skills for a short course in graphic design. Legends of India has also conducted music concerts, titled Morning Raga, earlier this year, at Tihar jail. Excerpts from an interview with Mazumdar.

Paintings created by inmates at the workshop
Paintings created by inmates at the workshop

Q. Tell us about the Morning Raga initiative at Tihar.
A. We presented to the DG (Prisons) at Tihar Jail, the concept of Morning Ragas for the inmates. This initiative is aimed at augmenting the rehabilitation process of the inmates through music. We strongly believe that our efforts will help guide the inmates bringing positive attitude into their lives and rejuvenate them.

Q. What was the impact of the music sessions?
A. When we presented the Morning Raga for convicted prisoners on June 3, 2015, we noticed that many swayed their heads and tapped their feet while some sat still — heads bowed and eyes shut — in deep thought, as if deciphering what lies ahead as the soulful melody of the Bairagi Todi raga reverberated in the air. Many possessed a fine sense of music as they applauded the complex compositions, especially the ones that oscillated between high and low octaves.

Some were even tapping one of their hands against the other to match the beat of the tabla; it was evident that the rhythmic jugalbandi between the tabla, sitar and the cello had taken them to a different dimension. In fact, one could have easily mistaken the convicts to be connoisseurs of classical music. We realised that the concept worked since we want to provide them some solace and music heals like nothing else. The DG (Prisons) wanted us to help the inmates further, and bring out their creative side. Hence, the visual art workshop was conducted. The inmates were allowed to play with colours while professional artists helped them present their thoughts on the canvas.

Q. How did you handpick inmates for the graphic design course?
A. We were surprised to see how good some of the inmates were with their ability to draw and paint and decided on 20 adolescent inmates, for a graphic design course, to begin with, based on their interests. Later, we can increase the numbers. The course will be determined by the professionals with the idea that the inmates find a job once they face the world.

Inmates at Tihar Jail attending the Morning Raga music session
Inmates at Tihar Jail attending the Morning Raga music session

Dipayan Mazumdar, Chairman, Legends of India
Dipayan Mazumdar, Chairman, Legends of India

Q. What is the next step?
A. We intend to make Morning Raga, a monthly activity. The visual and graphic art classes shall be limited to adolescents but we want to increase the number of inmates from the existing 20 to about a 100 inmates, within the span of a year. We are looking for funds and are planning to hold an exhibition of their art for the masses.

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