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Celebrating music, celebrating Goa

By Frederick Noronha

On weekends, and some other days, quietly and without much fuss, a house-full audience sits to rapt attention in Panaji or Margao, watching a charming story of Goa. Like many of its films, books, magazines and long-playing records, this story of Goa is crafted via the diaspora, in Mumbai.‘Nachom-ia Kumpasar’ calls itself “a tribute to the unsung musicians of Goa”. It came in from the fringes and slowly started gaining attention.  With hardly any publicity, it is growing by word-of-mouth appreciation.  Getting a ticket for a show in Panaji can be tough.

Isidore Dantas, the Konkani writer and translator, first drew our attention to this film. Meanwhile, the online Daijiworld network, a well-organised media network by Konkani-speaking Mangaloreans and others, reported that the film is doing well and managed to “captivate audiences” in Doha, Qatar., the online news and comment space run by journalist Naresh Fernandes and others, ran an article which called this “another Mumbai jazz age film… in Konkani”. Nandini Ramnath wrote that that Bardroy Barretto’s film “about a star-crossed romance between a jazz trumpeter and a singer was made with Rs 3.5 crore and lots of free labour from well-wishers”.

Apart from the team of musicians, who contributed to the making of this film – a Goan audience would encounter many known Goan faces and voices – there was little hint that this film was in the making.

Audiences watching it might even be wondering where it came in from. Bardroy ‘Roy’ Barretto, the Mumbai-based Canacona-origin ad-film maker who is credited with the film’s success, might be someone whose skills most Goans are not even aware of. Yet.

Barretto – an alumni of Loyola’s, Margao – has been a film director and earlier a film editor. Way back in 2007, he was listed by the ‘Mint’ business newspaper as one of the Indian “ad film-makers who buck the trend”.

Today in his mid-40s, he’s a partner at the Brown Skins production house. One description says of him: “Having spent close to two decades editing and touching up other people’s work as an editor, first at Crest Communications and later at United Studios, Bardroy Barretto places a lot of emphasis on ensuring that his work is as natural as possible. A purist known for his classic style, Roy (as he likes to be called) ensures that his films see as little post-product work or touch ups as possible.”

‘Nachom-ia Kumpasar’, or NK for short, is obviously quite unlike so many other films made in Goa and about Goa. This subject has been focussed on by Deepa Gehlot in Mario Cabral e Sa’s book ‘Location Goa’, specially in the context of Hindi films.

Bardroy Barretto’s NK tells the Goa story with empathy, with understanding and without the stereotypes that Bollywood uses to often describe people whose culture it finds difficult to understand.

What is unique about NK is its lovely music and technically amazing images. “It’s like ABBA: The Movie in Konkani”, someone said to me. Of course, it’s a local story, told in a regional language. But Bardroy has been busy wrapping up the international cut of NK. One only hopes things work out on this front; and from what we’ve seen so far, there’s no reason to believe they won’t!

What is also striking is the continuing contribution by the Goan diaspora to this region’s cultural life. (Talking about which, others contribute too. Many of those who opted to settle in Goa of choice have also been adding to local life in significant ways.)

For a long time, Goa’s cultural production was dependent on its expatriates. Today, this state is rife with recording studios, tiatr productions, media houses and what not. Yet, it always helps having a connect with higher-level skills that have access to the media megapolis that is Mumbai. Does anyone remember all those HMV 33-1/3 and 45 rpm records that came out of Bombay till the 1970s, when recording facilities were non-existent or hard to come by here?

It probably takes an outsider to point out your flaws; but it needs an insider to go beyond the stereotypes. In NK, if the musicians enjoy their drink and the crumbs of the good life, it’s because they’re only too human. Prince Jacob is there to continually remind us of that, in his own inimitable style!

Where one disagrees with Bardroy is in the suggestion that Goan music is past its prime. Films like these could indeed give popular Konkani music a new lease of life, and a new spurt, in times when we don’t just ‘hear’ music but also ‘see’ it. It needs both an insider (like Bardroy) and someone from a distance (like the German sound recordist Sigrid Pfeiffer) to appreciate the worth of Konkani popular music.

Efforts like these help build an alternate media, and fight the cliches. It not only makes the point that Goa’s got talent (and continues to build talent, despite our continued pessimism on various fronts). Likewise, rather than being patronising to things which are our own, it celebrates it. Music in this case, but food and sport probably deserves as much a celebration too. This is possible only when we begin to tell our own story.

Some might choose to see the story at its most obvious – the Chris-Lorna romance and its tragic effects. But one could also see it as the story of Goa, its missed opportunities, and the things that went wrong in the many twists and turns of its history.

I’m seated in the Entertainment Society of Goa theatre, and can hear a schoolboy ask his father, “Daddy, which year were you born in?” In a minute, he’s quite excited that the story is set in 1965, the very year in which his father was born.

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