Strength & subterfuge

Strength & subterfuge

It is but a grand delusion to think of Prison Break as a small screen kin of greats like The Shawshank Redemption or Stalag 17.

If you are a true blue fan of the series, you have probably hurled a dozen expletives at me already.

But, I say this not to diminish the show’s preponderance, but to punctuate that equating silver screen champions to small screen wonders is doing injustice to both pieces of magical entertainment.

To be fair, no character on Prison Break exhibits even the remotest of Andy Dufresnesque shades.

Why then would audience, especially Indians, catch onto this show — hook, line and sinker? The answer will only transcend most people. But for the few of us who do like to think about it, all fingers will point to the person in focus — Michael Scofield.

Don’t we all always look up to that one person, who has had a traumatic childhood, braved all odds and become a superhero — like Peter Parker in Spiderman and Bruce Wayne in Batman.

The silent, strong, loyal and resilient young man in Scofield leaves us amazed and awed. For a series that ran only four seasons, it is commendable what has been portrayed and conveyed in a taut, succinct and power-packed manner.

If Dostoevsky wrote about Raskolnikov and his circle of Karma, Paul Sheuring has crafted a life dominated by destiny-determined vicissitudes for a bunch of people whose lives inevitably come entangled in a prison.

As most art forms have depicted in history and mythology, fratricide is commoner than brotherly love. Cain killed Abel.

Fredo and Michael Corleone were not the best of siblings.

But counter to the stereotypical blood brother relationships, Prison Break embraces what Gilbert Grape was to Arnie — dutiful, nurturing and uncomplaining.

Prison, which is a vapid, squalid, trying and spirit-draining turf, tortures even the hardest of criminals, hogties thoughts and actions, brings out primal human instincts, makes one almost bestial in nature and corroborates the borrowed Darwinian postulate of Survival Of The Fittest. All criminals are not bad people.

All criminals are not guilty people. The innocent ones have been wronged because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And the guilty ones, well, they had motive. The commingling of these multi-hued personalities into the receptacle of poignancy, which must have been a colossal task, has been made to appear as easy as pie.

The ‘Taj Mahal deceit’, used as a ruse by the inmates to escape, can be termed the ‘Trojan Horse subterfuge’ equivalent of what the Greeks did in Troy.

Elegant, because it is intricately simple.

The chiaroscuro of toughness painted by the eclectic characters who are the inmates trying to escape are no doubt an integral and indispensable part of the show — an Italian American mob boss, a serial rapist, a falsely incarcerated US Army Sergeant, a good man waiting to reunite with his girlfriend, a sufferer of bipolar disorder, an aimless young man and two brothers — one falsely accused of murdering the vice-president’s brother and the other, who intentionally implicates himself in the prison so he can rescue his sibling.

Hard days of labour, long hours of trepidation, chaotic outbursts of rage from fellow inmates, conjugal visits drawing innuendos and cryptic codes to convey messages are paraphernalia that fortify the central theme of the series — that every human wants to lead a free life.

Each of the inmate embodies a trait we all possess and reflect.

No matter what the gravity of his crime, there is always a vulnerable side where it came from.

And when hardened criminals invoke a streak of sympathy, you know the script has been penned in a manner too effective.

A show made not for the weak-hearted, but for seasoned minds, which can assimilate and digest the turpitude of fate, stoically witness the nefarious acts of bad men and bear with grit the uncertainty of the future.

Every scar has a story to tell. Some, not nice ones. But then, life is never a bed of roses, isn’t it? As Michael Scofield says, “We all have our crosses to bear.” Prison Break airs on weekdays at 9 pm, on Deepika Nidige

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