'Tihar Idols' - Jail Birds All Set to Rock!

by Pankaj Menon on  January 3, 2013 at 12:41 PM Medindia Exclusive - Interviews and In depth Reports
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Giving a fresh lease of life to the inmates of Tihar Jail in India, the prison authorities have organized 'Tihar Idols', a venture based on music therapy to refine the attitude and character of the inmates. A competition similar to Indian Idols, 'Tihar Idols' was held with five categories of participation, for the first time this year as a one of its kind initiative in the whole of the country. Naresh S. Baisla, Director of a private production house, who was instrumental in establishing the competition talks to Medindia on the effects of the venture on the contestants.

Q. Why music therapy for prison inmates?

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A. Music is like the refresh button in our computer. No matter in how depressed state a man is, he cools down after listening to music. There will be fresh ideas in him. Music will change the negative thoughts in him into positive thoughts. His involvement is fulfilled by it. Studies show there is no other effective therapy than this to soothe the mind. Having this in our mind we decided to introduce the inmates to music therapy.

Q. How did you conceptualize this idea of 'Tihar Idols'?

A. There was an advertisement in the local newspaper that a music band is being launched in Tihar jail. Now, if a band is being launched one day and if we conduct an event another day, the whole effort is scattered. So we thought, Why not bring in something like the Indian idol, India's music reality show on TV, but with a wider scope of participation? If Indian idol has 1 category, we decided to make it five categories- singing, dancing, acting, instrumental and lyrics writer. When contacted, the prison authorities ensured full support for this venture. Thus, the entry forms were distributed and awareness about the programme was spread among the inmates.

Q. Since when have the competitions been going on? And what reward did the winner/winners get?

A. This is the first season, and though we started enrolling the contestants since February this year, the competitions began in full swing only around October. Till then, all inmates were given training in their respective fields as most of them were amateurs. The final was held on 30th November and seven people including two women were declared winners in various categories. The winners get an opportunity to record a music album all by themselves, for which a separate recording studio has been built inside the prison. The music album is expected to be released soon.

Q. What was the initial response of the inmates towards such a programme?

A. Some gave enthusiastic response while others felt thoroughly hopeless about life. They felt that there was no one or no need to do all this for. But with continuous interactive sessions and grooming sessions, quite a few of them were convinced. In fact, a few of the finalists were from those who were skeptic in the beginning.

Q. So what changes are observed in the attitude of the inmates from before the competition and now?

A. The change is tremendous. Before, they never spoke, were always morose, lonesome and sad. But now they are more social and jovial. They are more disciplined, they do not fight any more, nor use abusive languages, and are much positive about life and its opportunities. The prison staff have testified that depressions and suicidal tendencies among the inmates have taken a sharp fall ever since this venture began. In their attitude, in their body language, in the way they talk, in their personality, there has been a huge change. The competitions and the rehearsals are the only thing that occupies their mind now, that even after 4-6 hours of practice, they still continue to practice after going back to their cells.

Q. How have the families of the inmates responded to the initiative?

A. After getting to know that they are turning over a new leaf in prison, family of the inmates have come to mend terms with their kin. There was an inmate's mother who, after getting to know that her daughter has had a transformation within jail, came to visit her along with her aunt. This also serves as a tool for the inmate to shape up in their prison life to easily rehabilitate and be accepted by the society once they complete their jail term.

Q. Is there any particular incident that you remember with fondness during the whole of this venture?

A. Well, as we mentioned to you earlier, many were skeptical. There was one person in jail 9, Saurabh Singh (Name Changed). He played the Tabla well. When we requested him to take part, he was not interested. We insisted and asked him to just join us in the rehearsal sessions even if he did not want to take part in the competitions. We summoned him for two days. But then he came on his own will from the third day saying that he wanted to participate, that he wanted to be the 'old him!' There have been several such transformations.

While the clichéd attitude towards prisoners continues, the scope of rehabilitating law offenders and shaping a better human being out of them should be attempted without a break, rather than stigmatizing and isolating them from society.

Source: Medindia

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