Maru Behag Theater Group's Jolly Guha Roy: "I see inmates as ‘Amritsya Putra’ (God’s children)"

By Barshali Banerjee

Jolly Guha RoyKolkata, Dec 9, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio) Jolly Guha Roy has many dreams in her eyes. Stage, lights and shadows, script and other elements of theater comprises of her life. Through her theatre group ‘Maru Behag’, Jolly makes efforts to convey some of her messages to society.

Jolly Guha Roy told Washington Bangla Radio, “I look at them as ‘Amritasya Putra’ and treat every convict as God’s child. No one is a born criminal. Our society is the main setback which converts an ordinary person to a hardened criminal. It’s our society that is responsible for those unfavorable circumstances which lead a person to commit crime. But those unfortunate fellows should never be treated brutally. Lack in awareness, illiteracy, inhuman treatment and poverty are some of the elements behind the pathetic condition of these people.”

Her efforts have already opened millions of eyes across West Bengal. ‘Jadughar’ (museum), one of the stage dramas from ‘Maru Behag’ directed and produced by Jolly herself, was performed at G.D Birla Sabhaghar before an enthusiastic audience on 7th Novenmber. What makes the drama stand out is that most of the actors are inmates of Alipore Correctional Home who are still serving their sentences.

‘Jadu Ghar’ is an imaginative drama based on the life of an anthropologist. The drama showcased the protagonist’s connection with the world of extinct beings. The drama also deals with the subconscious mind which has been shown through mental bonding of the protagonist with inert objects in his studio.

Except for a few professional actors from Jolly’s own group, most of the actors have been trained and prepared by herself.

Guha Roy is a multi-faceted theater person who wears the hats of director, actor and script writer simultaneously.  She is more than a social worker who has made it possible to breathe new life within those convicts from Alipore Central Jail who had lost the meaning of life. In the darkest cells where the golden rays of sun never reach, dampness and isolation often makes a prisoner’s life claustrophobic. Jolly who is addressed as ‘Maa’ by inmates has a done an incredible job by bringing those lives in touch with the outside world since 2006. In the play Jadu Ghar, twenty nine non–actors from Alipore Central Correctional Home were seen performing before deeply appreciative audiences.

Prison Inmates in Bengali Drama Jadughar on Stage - Meru Behag - Jolly Guha Roy

Prison Inmates in Bengali Drama Jadughar on Stage - Meru Behag - Jolly Guha Roy

‘Shivmangal’, based on a satire, was the first stage drama in which Jolly involved inmates. Apart from acting, they also contributed to choreography, dances and singing. Apart from Jadughar, other projects like ‘Shesher Kabita’, ‘Ghore Baire’ and ‘Chokher Bali’ are being performed by them. ‘Bharater Bile’, another drama based on Swami Vivekananda written by Jolly herself, is in the pipeline and is being readied for stage performance.

Prison Inmates in Bengali Drama Jadughar on Stage - Meru Behag - Jolly Guha Roy

Prison Inmates in Bengali Drama Jadughar on Stage - Meru Behag - Jolly Guha Roy

Although she faced  many challenges (money being the biggest one) in bringing inmates into a cultural domain through performing arts, she received much support from Kolkata Police and IG (Inspector General) Ranvir Kumar in pulling it off.

Jolly Guha Roy's inspiration, understanding, compassion. encouragement and acceptance have led the many inmates to thank the Almighty for their savior who has helped them lead healthier and successful lives, during and after incarceration.