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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!
Talking about alumni publications, there seem to be quite a few coming out from Bardez. In part, one suspects, this might be driven by the expat interest in the ‘old boys networks’ from this region. You simply get more nostalgic the further you are from Goa!
‘Yesterdays at Monte: Jogging Down Memory Lane’ (Aug 2006, pp 78, Rs 100, Vikram Publications Limavaddo, Porvorim) is Edward de Lima’s book on St Anthony’s at Monte Guirim.
As he puts it: “Life those days was simple and hard, but we enjoyed ourselves in different innocent ways.” This book focuses on, among other things, lunch at school, annual concerts, Mocidade Portuguesa (there was recently an interesting debate in cyberspace over how one could interpret this organisation and its politics), corporal punishments, the school’s debating society, the “brown hair episode”, retreats, and the author’s teachers and classmates.
“Those Good Ol’ Days!” (pp 82, Rs 150) is the 2006 compilation of tributes from ex-students of students from St Britto’s, St Mary’s, and St Xavier’s College at Mapusa. It shares some articles in common with ‘Britto’s Retro’ (pp 208, Rs 50), which focuses almost entirely on St Britto’s.
Maybe alumni networks could play a more active role in building links and encouraging the growth of institutions that gave generations a quality education at a pittance. It’s nice to see so many active alumni groups, including from institutions like the Goa Medical College, People’s High School, Don Bosco’s in Panjim, Loyola’s in Margao, the old Lyceum, and others.
The Porvorim-based Thomas Stevens Konknni Kendra keeps on quietly and actively publishing. Recently, one came across two, slim inexpensive publications from there.
‘Dor Mhoineachi Rotti’ is a decades-old monthly (once even published from Karachi, Pakistan) in Konkani that focuses on religious and social issues. It is now out in a new format, and priced at Rs 10 for a single issue. Details from email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Hansat Gayat Nachat: Bhurgeanchim Gitam’ (Pratap Naik sj, pp 52, Rs 20) is a tiny, pocketbook-sized compilation of poems in Konkani in the Roman script.
Books published in Goa don’t sell. That seems to be the lament of those in the trade — specially writers and publishers. Or, some of them at least.
If we keep repeating this argument often enough, we might soon start believing that it’s true.
Miguel Braganza, a columnist for GT, commented recently: “We have few bookshops in Goa that let you browse through books before you buy one. Broadways at St. Inez, The Reading Habit at Campal and Golden Heart Emporium at Margao are the exceptions rather than the rule. Book exhibitions are still a treat in Goa.” Maybe one could add Varsha’s too.
Braganza pointed to some recent alumni publications — of Mapusa-based schools and a college — and said these gave “different perspectives of school and boarding life in Goa from 1946 (the Mocidade Portuguesa days) to the 1990s (Boy Scout camps and NCC days) that any person will enjoy reading.”
But he lamented that nobody seemed to be buying these. Even if books were being sold, was Goa reading them, he suggested?
Prominent never-say-die writer from Goa based in the US Victor Rangel-Ribeiro (email@example.com) joined the online-debate: “I agree that, with a few exceptions, even highly literate Goans do not count among the world’s great book buyers. That said, the books you cited might sell better if they are placed in more outlets than just one.”
George Pinto, a San Jose-based supporter of many a Goan cause, came up with another perspective: “Inspite of quality work, it seems to me three problems account for poor book sales: Goan apathy. Under appreciation of the humanities, arts, literature in the Goan community. No distributions network in the Goan Diaspora.”
He added: “I wonder how this can be solved.”
There are other problems too, one would argue. Goa-related books are hardly visible when published. They don’t get the reviews they deserve, in most of the local or outstation media. The market is small and scattered over a huge geographical area (the Diaspora could be a vital part of that market too, but reaching it can be tough).
Overall, the reading habit needs to be encouraged in Goa; and we have a long way to go here. But, then, we here too should be reporting a spurt in reading (like much of the rest of India, take the case of Hindi newspapers in north India) if Goa’s claims about the growth in literacy in recent years tally with reality.
But, greater visibility for the books is crucial. How will people buy one if they don’t even know it exists, or where they can pick it up from? Incidentally, one believes that Goa books should also become more affordable; nobody will pick up a copy at whatever price just because it relates to Goa.
Feedback welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org, 2409490 or 9970157402