From the screen, to the page… the story of Goa and films

When one tried to pick up a copy of ‘Location Goa’, it took me a couple of visits and more to actually get it. To be fair to Director of Information Menino Peres, he promptly handed over a copy when we actually managed to meet.

But one still doubts that this book — about the strange relationship between Goa and films (mostly Bollywood) — has reached the hands of too many readers. In Goa or beyond.

That’s sad. Like any government-published book, once the money is spent, there isn’t any great pressures to make sure that the book is actually read, leave alone sold. The 257-page hard-bound large-size book has a lot of interesting information, which makes it even more unfortunate that it doesn’t get — or at least hasn’t yet got — the audience it deserves.

Edited by journalist and author Mario Cabral e Sa, the book is obviously aimed at shoring up Goa’s case for continuing as the permanent home of the annual International Film Festival of India (IFFI). While the mela that accompanies the IFFI should definitely go and only adds to the overall irritation of the average citizen, the IFFI itself could surely add value to the overall package that goes into making Goa an interesting and attractive place. Provided that it is better organised, of course.

Building a link between the big and glamorous world of films and tiny Goa is no mean task. Given the flak the IFFI has got — from a section of the outstation filmi-industry, politicians who want to point to flaws, media-persons who fail to see the big-picture, and also locals upset by the added pressures in their lives — it only becomes all that tougher.

But this book’s editor, Mario Cabral e Sa, does it in style. He attains a readable book by choosing an interesting set of contributors. ‘Location Goa’ also has some critical voices, enough to retain credibility but obviously not too much to upset the government authorities that paid the bill for ensuring that it came out before IFFI 2006.

This tome throws up some little-known-facts about the film world’s links with Goa. Did you know, for instance, that since the 1950s, some 90+ films were shot in Goa? Or, we are told, that the legendary Prithviraj Kapoor was introduced to films by an illiterate Goan girl called Ermelinda Cardozo of Divar? Before finishing for the ‘day’ at dawn, I ended up reading Mumbai-based journo Jerry Pinto’s chapter on the uneasy relationship between Goans and Bollywood — in terms of how they get projected, that is.

This book continues to get peppered with unusual facts.

Whether it will convince the film-makers of the south or eastern India that Goa is a good venue for IFFI (they seem to be in a tug-of-war with the Bollywood lobby) is anyone’s guess. Would it convince locals that they need to take their own, little-noticed film links more seriously? Or, do cinematographic accidents of history make up for the lack of a film-viewing culture in a Goa where the total number of film-clubs, for instance, could be easily counted on the fingers of one hand?

Cabral e Sa himself starts off with his chapter to the lady the book is dedicated to — Ermelinda Cardoso (Sudhabala), “the Goan star of the silent movie era….”

Chapter 1 is titled “what’s so great about Goa?” and makes a claim for talking about the nice parts of this region. Next, director Shyam Benegal — who shot ‘Trikaal’ and ‘Bhumika’ in Goa — narrates his experiences. (”I visited Goa for the first time in 1967, a few years after its liberation from Portuguese rule. It was an extraordinary experience. Goa was both a part and apart from the rest of India.”)

Poet and editor Manohar Shetty writes about Goa’s first two IFFIs. Among other essays of direct relevance to Goa are critic Deepa Gahlot’s “selection of the 20 best films shot in gorgeous Goa”.

What Gahlot says almost in passing of the film ‘Bobby’ (1973) gives a hint of the unflattering manner in which Goans feel they’ve been portrayed in Bollywood. She writes: “The film had terrific music, and was a trend-setter in its time. Bobby dresses, blouses, pins, everything became a rage. And this updated Romeo-Juliet tale spawned many rip-offs. It was a huge hit, and one of the few popular films that did not turn Goans into caricatures. Bobby must surely go down as the most stunning Goan girl seen in films for all time.”

Shama Zaidi, who wrote ‘Trikaal’ and ‘Bhumika’, recalls her experiences in Goa, in another chapter. Gahlot comes in again with a chapter on “some of the biggest stars who pranced and danced on the sets in Goa”.

Jerry Pinto argues that Hindi cinema represents Goans as people “on the margins of society”. (”It is no accident that Goa surfaces often in the imagination of Mumbai. Since the arrival of the hippies in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it has always been seen as the place where one might see nude women on the beach. That myth may have faded somewhat — though a repressed city with a skewed sex ratio in a repressed nation is always reluctant to abandon such mythologies — but it is still seen as ‘different’, just as Roman Catholics are seen as ‘different’.”)

In another interesting piece, the late ad-man Frank Simoes writes about the making of The Sea Wolves, based on a World War II episode in Goa. Time-Out (Mumbai) editor Naresh Fernandes writes on Anthony Gonsalves and other Goan musicians in the Hindi film industry.

Andrew Greno Viegas, that great fan of Konkani film who died so early on in life just a few weeks back, has his take on Konkani cinema, a subject he had written an entire book on. Renu Iyer’s listing of 90+ films shot in Goa seems comprehensive.

All in all, a book with lots of interesting content — if you’re interested in films, in Goa, or in both.

One only wishes that after spending so much of resources to put together a fairly decent product, the Goa government would make sure it is visible, readable and buy-able in bookshops around Goa. Better still it would be if a PDF version could be made available for free download via the Net. Governments spending taxpayer money need to look beyond an all-rights-reserved copyrighted model for their publications. With alternative approaches, the goal of collating and disseminating this information would be surely better met!

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About fredericknoronha

Alt.Publishing. Journalism. Books. Cyberspace. Networking.

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