For Dharmendra Kumar, an inmate of jail number 3 lodged at Tihar Jail on charges of murder, Friday was a day to remember. The 32-year-old had just received a huge round of applause for his portrayal of a murder-accused defence counsel trying to save an Army jawan in ‘Court Martial’, a play directed by fellow inmate and ‘Peepli Live’ co-director Mahmood Farooqui.
“Andar se feelings aa rahi thi (my conscience compelled me to) to bring the truth out. I played the role passionately thinking how I was falsely made an accused and tried to protect a jawan in the play,” said Kumar, an engineer who had a corporate job till he was accused in a murder in Delhi’s Dabri area in 2012.
Farooqui, convicted on charges of raping a 30-year-old American woman and sentenced to seven years in jail, hosted the show. “The play was received well and inmates gathered to watch it. The whole team worked hard and did an excellent job. Despite limited resources, the result was good. Even the jail authorities were helpful,” Farooqui said.
Asked if it was a conscious decision to play the protagonist, Kumar said he got the role after an audition. “The theatre culture became a part of the jail after Farooqui was lodged there. Slowly a team was built and other plays were conducted. After the audition, he told me I was suited for the role. For the last two months we practiced continuously,” Kumar, a resident of Samastipur, Bihar, said.
DG Prison, Mukesh Prasad, applauded the inmates’ hard work. “Mr Farooqui had done a wonderful job and the way they acted, it seemed they were really from the armed forces. I did not think the inmates would be interested, but they sat all through the play. The message of the play —truth prevails every time — also captured everyone’s imagination,” he said.