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Why is Nigel Akkara coveted?
The life of Nigel Akkara in the present context seems to be an apparent fairy tale, but inspiring to the present generation. An ordinary, middle class, Christian boy, from an elite educational institution in Kolkata, who as a teenager drifted away from the conventional society and reached the abyss of crime.

Later on in life he gets reformed through culture therapy under the tutelage of classical dancer Alokananda Roy, while staying inside the Presidency Central Correctional Home in Kolkata. His life is nothing short of a Bollywood potboiler. But he is not the sole person who wanted to debunk the world of crime, there are other such rarest of rare individuals too. 

In the history of Indian crime, underworld don Raju Anadkat after being released from Jaipur jail, himself went to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) headquarters in Delhi. He wanted to face trial in all the cases against him and be done with them once and for all. He was tired of running from the law and wanted to lead a normal life, which he eventually lead in Rajkot.1 It may be mentioned that we judge people in binary terms – black/ white, but every individual including the dreaded criminals have grey shades (comprising of both white and black), which is often overlooked.

Nigel, not only has grey shades but he possess few good attributes too. Unlike most celebrities who make others wait, he is very punctual and refuses to take money when invited as a guest speaker in schools and colleges. He possesses a razor sharp intelligence. He appears to be introvert but friendly .When required he can connect with people especially students very well.

Investigating officers who dealt with him during his initial period of arrest, on conditions of anonymity, were of the opinion that with his robust physique, indefatigable energy, he was always different from the rest. Even then, his body language was electric. At that point of time too, officers felt if he had channelized his potentialities in a positive manner, he could have been one among thousands. The investigating police officers themselves suffered bolt from the blue after seeing his value based, well mannered mother having such a deviant son.2

In an opaque institution such as the prison, time comes to a standstill. A caged life is worse than hell, even if the cage is made of gold. The presence of dreaded criminals are loathed. Long periods of incarceration with a criminal tag in an ambience, where lack of appreciation for the intrinsic value of human life and dignity exists, makes an individual take resort to social recluse. It prompts psychological problems leaving an indelible imprint in the human mind.

The underworld is defined by weapon, women and wine. But even as a gangster Nigel was always committed to his Bengali girlfriend, who eventually left him and got married in 2003.3 It must be extremely depressing for him to suffer estrangement in confinement. As a teacher I have seen adolescent boys and girls on the verge of ending their lives when their love life is affected. But it is remarkable that in spite of being imprisoned for around nine years, suffering the worst form of custodial torture, losing the love of his life, he never lost his 'own' self.

Though he struggles inwardly, he tries to be positive and projects positive attitude as his real persona. One of his rare yet extremely striking feature remains that in his psyche he nurtured love and hate (read violence and vengeance) simultaneously. The conflict and contradictions in his character is worth for research by social psychologists. Perhaps during his years as a gangster, his girlfriend and his younger brother whom he loved unconditionally could have changed him. However one should not be judgmental.

In adolescent period often children distance themselves from their parents. They fail to comprehend the value and worth of their mother, especially if she is single, working, struggling to make both ends meet. Very recently on an online portal he spoke about the relationship and the value of his mother in his life.

The video speaks of how his mother hailing from Kerala and belonging to a Christian minority religion, struggled singlehandedly all throughout her life in Kolkata (an alien land to her) to bring up her two children.4 In a subtle manner the video highlighted the universal struggles and pains of a single, widowed woman. The video is a fitting tribute to a single, working woman –a mother by her son.

Needless to say he loves, cares for his mother. He speaks about of his mother, who loves to go to church and pray, watch Shalom television network and do shopping at New Market during Christmas. She loves cooking. Due to Nigel's dietary restrictions related to different characters he portrays in the films, even she has adopted his diet, which makes her look young.

According to Nigel, now she looks like his sister!5 She loves to lead a simple life. He categorically mentioned that he wants his future life partner to look after his mother. His mother is not very fond of highlighting herself and leads an anonymous existence.

In a documentary on jail, where Nigel was featured off-camera she just said, 'I am happy, he is out'. Even when the case study on his company was documented by the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata, she refused to speak in public. His family (which includes his mother, brother and sister-in-law) guard their privacy very zealously. In case of film premiere she sits separately with her friends.6 It goes without saying a biological mother will never use her own flesh and blood to hawk limelight and earn social recognition.

One of his greatest challenges in life has been to reestablish and reintegrate with the mainstream society. It is not easy for a former gangster, who once commanded a gang, enjoyed the pleasures of life, to struggle in his post-release phase for getting a job to make his both ends meet .Though just after release he lead a parasitic existence depending on his mentors for a living but what is appreciable is he never lost hope and confidence in adverse situation.

He went on to start a business named Kolkata Facilities Management, employing former prisoners in housekeeping, pest control and private security job. He has in-depth knowledge regarding his business and knows every nuances and nitty-gritty of his business and office. He is exceptionally intelligent to gauge people, a quality acquired through experience and intuition, a quintessential attribute required to run a gang as well as an organization. 

Even with hectic shooting schedule he tries to manage his business, working long hours, sometimes late at night. At times late night he drives his own motorcycle to check different sites where his employees are engaged. For him no work is big or small. He works exceptionally hard, a quality which we Bengalis should learn from this Malayali raised in Kolkata.

At times he may not get payments in time from different institutions where his staffs are employed, yet he does provide them regular salary from his own personal fund. He interacts with his employees at a very ground level. Very recently he has converted Kolkata Facilities Management from individual proprietorship to private limited company.

He has expanded his business to include meditation, stress management, interior designing. He has forayed into new areas such as event management, group theatre and the craft of film production.7 His staff are very well mannered, professionally trained and efficient in their work. Through his company he has changed the perception of looking at former prisoners.

Film posters have a very important role occupying a space between art and advertisement. Along with an artistic value they have a commercial purpose. Posters are created to grab the attention of movie-goers; convey a message; and sell the story of the film to the audience even before viewers see it for themselves in theatre halls. It tells the genre of the film. Actors/stars are used as unique selling point.

In the poster of Mukhtodhara hapless faces behind iron bars are semiology to create meaning of hopeless life inside a prison. A bird flying in which the icons of actors are engraved indicate the yearning for liberty and freedom. In the poster of Yoddha, Nigel has been excluded.  Filters are a part of the silent subtle politics of the entertainment industry. He has confronted subtle discrimination in tinsel town but being a tough fighter, with lots of patience and perseverance he waits for the right opportunity. It is not easy for a yester year gangster hailing from a totally non-film background with a Malayali mother tongue, to sustain himself in the world of entertainment in Bengal or elsewhere. It requires hard work, mental toughness and iron-grit which he possesses.

With time he has become focused, matured and evolved as a person. He has groomed himself professionally very well. A guy who would hesitate, feel ashamed to speak about his murky past during his initial post-release phase has now got immune to withstand hard and tough questions of his former life in public space. In a world where erosion of values take place every second, the gratitude he shows even after achieving stardom towards his mentor needs to be appreciated. The next generation should learn the value of gratitude from him.

His journey of life from a local mobster to a successful social entrepreneur and actor is commendable. Children of celebrities whether film stars or sport stars are born with a golden spoon in their mouth and get opportunities but yet many fail to carve a separate niche in this world. Nigel was not born with a golden spoon in his mouth. He did not have an over protective, glamourised and rich childhood. But hard work, perseverance, and iron-determination to utilize the opportunities he received, helped him to pave the second innings of his life in a positive manner.

Hopefully with each passing years he finds an acceptance in the mainstream society where he confronted stigmatization, insult, humiliations and marginalization in his post-release phase of life. His zeal to succeed in life is sky rocketing. Hopefully through 'positive' work this Xaverian can reach the zenith of success thereby fulfilling in spirit and action -'Nihil Ultra'- Nothing Beyond!

References:

1.      Kumar, Neeraj (2015). Dial D for Don, Gurgaon: Penguin Books And Blue Salt, pp.30-31.

2.      As told by a retired police officer who served Kolkata Police, on conditions of anonymity, interviewed on 29th June 2015.

3.     The author interviewed Nigel Akkara on 3rd September 2015.

4. See Amar Maa with Nigel Akkara, Facebook.com/KFMPvt. Ltd, last accessed 30th April 2016.

5.    As spoken by Nigel Akkara informally on 7th September 2015.

6.   The author interviewed Nigel Akkara on 26th January 2015.

7.   See Facebook.com/KFM Pvt. Ltd/, last accessed 30th April 2016.

(The article is not a commissioned work assigned by Nigel Akkara or his public relation team. The author is a freelancer who writes on police and prison related issues and the opinion expressed are those of the author.)

Acknowledgement

I am thankful to Nigel Akkara for speaking to me in spite of his hectic work schedule.

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