“In prison, you’ve got all kinds of people. People beating up people for their commissary, people beating up people for their tennis shoes. You’ve got people sodomizing people, you know, just rambunctious” – Julius Lockett
Adding to this quote, in Cheemeni open jail, Kerala, there are creative inmates too. In a first of sorts, a short film was written and directed entirely by prison inmates.
Some of the inmates in Cheemeni Open Prison approached jail authorities and expressed their wish to take part in a filmmaking workshop. There were no twists, no villains. Without much waiting, they were given a chance to participate in a filmmaking workshop as part of the vocational training organised for inmates by the prison authority and welfare board.
“We usually give them vocational training in plumbing, electrician course, etc. but, this time, they thought out of the box. We got permission from higher authorities to give them training in filmmaking, and now we all are happy because the end result has created ahistory,” V Jayakumar, superintendent of Cheemeni Open prison, said to The Logical Indian.
The much awaited day
Invited by jail authorities, filmmaker Palaniappan stepped into the Cheemeni jail with his team to train prison inmates. Little did he know about the prison atmosphere and about the inmates. Chidambaram and his team started training the 20-member prison team. The training was for 15 days.
During one the 15 days of training, he asked the inmates to come up with a script by themselves. He split the team into three and as far has Chidambaram was concerned, the result was astonishing. A lot more happened than he expected. While going through the scripts, a thought sparked in his mind to make a short film based on it. Thus the short film ABCD was born.
“I was surprised by finding out the talent they have. They crafted the script based on their own life experiences. I have trained students studying in film institutes. But most of them lack real-life experiences. All the three scripts penned by the inmates were of outstanding quality because they all were carved out of real life experiences,” Director Chidambaram told The Logical Indian.
The short film is based on the theme ‘literacy’. While underlying the importance of literacy, it also conveys a message that anyone can have a second chance in life. The entire script is devoid of any dialogues. “The main attraction of the script is the absence of dialogue. It conveys the whole story without a single dialogue. The ambience and location around the jail premises were apt for shooting the story,” Chidambaram said.
All the production and post-production work except cinematography, editing and music were done by the prison inmates themselves.
The post-production experience
A rapport was created between Chidambaram and the prison inmates during these training days. Chidambaram said he could take home some revelations and experiences after 15 days of training. First of all, he could train a different group of cine buffs.
“They hugged me and told that they could learn some good manners from me. They have arranged a party for us from their little savings.”
The director pins his hope in ‘ABCD’ and awaits its release. The prison inmates and authorities are also eagerly waiting for their debut short film. After all, they are waiting for a new beginning.