Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Shawshank Redemption

The funny thing is, on the outside, I was an honest man, straight as an arrow. I had to come to prison to be a crook.
~ Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank redemption

There was a time when I hated idea of having a laptop and watching cinemas on it. Ironically that was what I started doing when I got it. It was a lazy afternoon The idea of having classes cancelled on a Friday noon and loafing in our hostel rooms was a crazy fantasy that came true in second semester.

I thought of watching a good movie that afternoon. I thought that a prison escape cinema would be filled with action and a lot of covert planning. I had seen "The Great Escape",  a cinema on a German  POW camp where British and American soldiers were imprisoned. But this movie was totally different. The story moved smoothly. It had no major twist in the middle of the cinema. It had subtle points that astonish you in the end.

I strongly believe that cinema reviews must not carry  he story of the cinema along with them. That spoils the mystery and enthusiasm of the audience. But many movie-goers  don't like the idea of entering the theatre with a blank mind. Hence I include a short inaccurate account of the story for such audience.

Andy Dufresne is a hot shot banker who's convicted of murdering his wife and her lover. He is innocent of the crime but the evidence is manipulated to convict Andy. Prison environment is not a descent one. Andy is often targeted and beaten up by a group of gay prisoners for not co-operating with them. But Andy doesn't break. He still retains his calm, descent manners. He  befriends with Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding (a guy who can "get" you things from outside the prison). Andy takes a risk by offering to help a prison guard to save tax. He also offers to do the paper work free of cost. Later he starts doing the tax returns of all prison guards. The warden asks him to run the prison scam and manage the money he received in bribes . In return Andy is allowed to develop the prison library and have a private cell. Later he comes to know about evidence that indicated that somebody else had shot his wife and her lover , Andy asks for a retrial. The warden refuses to acquiesce to his proposal.   He murders the new prisoner who supplied the new evidence tactfully. He threatens to destroy the prison library that Andy developed. He tortures Andy and forces him to give up his demand.  Andy makes his final plans to leave Shawshank after this incident.  He does it in style.

Shawshank was nominated for seven Oscars including the category of Best movie, & Best actor. But it did not win any awards. The Shawshank Redemption received a limited release on September 23, 1994, and made over $727,000 on 33 screens in its first weekend. It received a wide release on October 7, 1994. It was re-released in 1995 during the Oscar season, and made an additional $8 million. Overall, it has made $28.3 million in theatres .domestically. It has also received good response from the audience as well as critics.

Shawshank Redemption has made two strong observations about the world we live in.
1.Justice is not synonymous with law and trial.
2. The cycle of corruption and abuse of power  and exploitation is a loop sustained by fear. The fuel for this machine to work is fear.
That's why the tag line on the poster  "Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free." is apt.

The movie subtly questions the very basics of prison and legal system itself.
How did we reach the present Law enforcement system?
Here are some thoughts regarding the same.
When Homo sapiens started building structures they sought protection from rain, snow, sunlight, animals and so, on. Soon after these animals understood that they could grow plants and stop wandering like other animals, they started to claim ownership of land, homes and stuff. Never did they dream of a structure that would protect them from some other kind beings which were clad in the suit of a human.

In the beginning, the criminals were just thrown into a dungeon or killed by those in power. Some even enforced doctrines like “eye for an eye” etc. The right to trial or justice was unknown in the beginning. The modern criminal procedure and the idea of maintaining a prison originated in London.  As the civilisation marched forward , the legal process became more complex and so did our ability to distort truth. The party (good or bad) who can tactfully present his case can win any case. They justify this mess with a saying “the legal system won’t punish an innocent man even if 100 guilty men are let off.” The fact is hundred men do escape the leash of law. It’s the one innocent man who is convicted in courts. Congrats to our lawyers, judges and legal experts.

The idea of imposing  morality on the innocent human mind is one of the basic idea of a prison system. It is dubbed as a deterrent to every cruel plot to torture, cheat, murder, rob another individual. But the crimes punished for on the outside are those commit on the inside. Who gave the authority to the morally correct people to hang a living man? How could you force him to repent by sucking his soul in a closed room with his consent? A crime is a crime no matter what reason you have for it. The worst part of the story is not the conviction / murder / prison life. The one's who write those laws these days sitting in "august" houses of parliament are the biggest criminals of our times! One has to be aware of this fact when one uses the word "law-abiding " citizen !

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