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Woman of substance

Ichche makers Shiboprosad Mukhopadhyay and Nandita Roy are ready to start shooting for Mukto Dhara, a film based on prison inmates starring Rituparna Sengupta and real-life convict Nigel Akkara, who has served nine years in Presidency jail.

A t2 chat with Shiboprosad.

What is Mukto Dhara all about?

Mukto Dhara is a film about the inmates of a correctional home (Presidency jail) who live a reformed and normal life, and are artists in their own way. Some paint, some sculpt.... All of them have an ugly past but they have buried it and moved on. My film is based on them. Rituparna Sengupta plays the protagonist Niharika, who, on the request of the jail’s IG (Debshankar Halder), comes to reform the inmates through culture therapy. She faces hurdles in the beginning but how she overcomes those is what the film is all about. Her character is inspired by Alokananda Roy (dancer and social activist), who also works with prison inmates in correctional homes. She is the choreographer for the film.... Bratya Basu will be seen in an interesting role.

Rituparna and Nigel at a look test for Mukto Dhara. Pictures by Anindya Shankar Ray
I play Yusuf in Mukto Dhara. I am glad that Shibuda (Shiboprosad) offered me a role in his film. I was convicted for a murder and have served nine years in prison. Now I live a normal life. I have a small company and I also do shows in various parts of the country.... Nobody knows our stories, people don’t even consider us as normal human beings. I think Mukto Dhara will show us as normal people. I know a lot of my fellow inmates will be inspired and proud of me after the film releases. I am doing workshops with Rituparna Sengupta and it’s a huge learning experience.
Nigel Akkara

You’ve cast a real-life convict in the film...

Well, I don’t know much about Nigel’s past, honestly. The idea for the film came when Nanditadi and I were in Santiniketan, watching Tagore’s Balmiki Pratibha being staged by prison inmates. Nigel was a part of it and he was brilliant. After the play, both Nanditadi and I exclaimed together, ‘Eta niye ekta film korle kamon hoy!’ And we knew we had to have Nigel. I am very impressed with Nigel, he is a very passionate actor. We have been doing workshops with him for the past three months.

My character, Niharika, is a strong-willed woman of substance. I will sport a very different look in the film... top knot, salwar kameez and, sometimes, saris. I haven’t had the opportunity to go and visit the jail inmates but we will shoot mostly inside Presidency and Alipore jails. Currently, I am busy doing workshops with Nigel. He is very hard-working and believes in what he does. I am really looking forward to Mukto Dhara. It will definitely be one of the most important films in my career.
Rituparna Sengupta

Have you got the permission to shoot inside the jails?

Yes. We will shoot a major portion of the film inside Presidency and Alipore jails. Over the past nine months, I have visited the jails a number of times and interacted with the inmates. Ranvir Kumar, IG, prison, and minister for jails Shankar Chakraborty have helped me a lot. Mukto Dhara is a very challenging film for me and it has a huge budget. Bachchu Biswas and Atanu Roychowdhury of Progressive Films are producing the film. We start shooting from December 5.

And you’ve kept your promise of doing a film with Rituparna, who had presented your directorial debut Ichche...

No. Let’s not put it that way. Talks of doing a film with Rituparna were on even before Ichche happened. See, Rituparna is a very good actress and she fits the bill as Niharika. She is known for films like Paromitar Ekdin and Alo apart from other films, and I am sure Mukto Dhara, too, will be a milestone in her career.

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