Stuck in the house due to this invincible lockdown and cut off from the internet connection after the storm Amphan, I was wondering what to do for a little entertainment. Then I remembered that I had an entire folder dedicated to “Movies” in my computer to combat such situations.
The movie is based on the life of prisoners trapped in the small prison world struggling to break free. It shows how Muktodhara or the stream of freedom can only be brought to them through art and culture. While watching the movie, I realised something…
The scene when their dance teacher Neharika asks the prisoners to describe how their everyday life is, they say: “We wake up early in the morning, have our breakfast, and head off to work; then we stop in the middle to have lunch and again work till evening; then we have our dinner and go off to sleep.”
That was their short and simple lifestyle in the prison.
And just as the dialogue ended, I heard myself say: “Pretty much like our life.” And suddenly I was struck by the stark similarity!
The Invisible Prison
As we go about in our day-to-day activities, hurrying to work and doing our jobs, do we ever realise how trapped we actually are? Maybe not… because our habits prevent us from mulling over it too much.
Habit is a great deadener after all.
But if we sit and ponder over our lifestyle, can we not find a similarity to those prisoners? The only difference perhaps is the size of our worlds. We have a larger one, while theirs is only a small world in the prison house. Still, we are the same. Even after having the entire world open to us, we are the same. We are trapped in the invisible prison of life–without even knowing it.
The prisoners in the cell at least know that they are imprisoned and that’s why they try to escape–not a good thing, but it is what it is. Some of them might even be released after they complete their term.
But what about us? The people who are trapped in the prison of life. When will our term end? Will we never even strive to escape? Will we never meet our freedom? If yes, then how?
Well, that answer too lies in the film itself.
The Path to Freedom
We will walk towards our freedom exactly the same way that the prisoners in the movie walked towards theirs—through art.
The first drop of rain drenched their perched souls when the prisoners decided to break their shackles and dance freely to their heart’s content. Of course, they resisted in the beginning; and thought that it was some kind of punishment bestowed upon them. They refused to be a part of it. But slowly, they yielded to it.
And, guess what? Here too, Rabindranath Tagore came to their rescue. Yes–the man who himself was trapped in his own invisible prison was instrumental in freeing the prisoners. The poet who weaved words upon words to break his own shackles had always come to the rescue of all those who find themselves trapped in cage.
Neharika decided to train the prisoners into performing Tagore’s dance drama Valmiki Protibha. The story is based on the life of Valmiki—the composer of the epic Ramayana.
But he wasn’t always the saintly being. He was once a famous dacoit by the name of Ratnakar. He used to kill people and rob them of their belongings. One day when he realised that he had been committing sin after sin, guilt entrapped him. He found his release when he sat and wrote The Ramayana. Once again, it was art that came to the rescue.
As for the prisoners, this story of redemption brought a change. As they began to rehearse for their grand performance, they realised their own mistakes. They understood that what they did was wrong. As they rehearsed Valmiki’s story, a hope slowly settled into their hearts—the hope that perhaps they too have their chance of rectifying themselves.
Thus, while art granted them a way to express themselves, it also instilled in them a desire to amend their ways. And that absolved their soul from all its sins and the guilt that was eating them up inside.
The remarkable movie Muktodhara touched the hearts of millions through the powerful depiction of such a great insight. And we bowed our head in respect as the moral of the story slowly seeped inside us…
Art has the sole power to free us from the shackles that tie us back. Art alone can liberate us from mundane activities. Art is our only escape from the invisible prison of life. While we are still in our lockdown phrase, why not seek the shelter of art and take our first step towards breaking that invisible prison?
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