PAGE 09: Films in Goa/ Goa in films

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By Dr Rachna Patni

Goa has been such an inspiration to Bollywood and to the Hindi film industry. The story lines in them have in turn inspired innumerable trips of friend groups to Goa. Before that, there were the honeymooners, a gentler category of fun seekers who seek to begin their wedded bliss in Goa. Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. has interesting characters and storylines set in Goa and as with so many other films set in Goa, the focus is entirely on the experience of the tourists. Whether and how they interact with the landscape and relationships with locals is not investigated much. This has successfully created a situation where everyone feels they can come to Goa and do their own thing, in a vacuum, because they are here on holiday and have paid in order to be carefree. It has also festered some negative reactions from local communities.

Last month we were driving in a village in Goa and happened to have a car with a number plate from another Indian state. Despite being domiciled in Goa, having a Goan surname and my husband’s fluent Konkani, we got caught up in a storm of hatred by the locals who had had enough. A new hotel in their area generated many cars from elsewhere coming into their neighbourhood. That we had gone to meet a family there was not enough to calm the flames of passionate hatred toward tourists. We came away from there feeling sad for everyone, the tourists and the locals.

Bollywood’s rendition of a great holiday in Goa started with the road trip sensation Dil Chahta Hai. The backdrop of exploring the fabulous terrain of Goa while also encountering their internal terrain of friendships made for landmark cinema. Chapora fort was never the same again after that. When selfie opportunities became part of the solemn oath of holidaying, it became even more important to go to all the same places and yet have your own uniquely unbelievable time in Goa. I often wonder about the condition of Chapora fort, and also about the metaphorical ways in which ‘pugdundees’ become highways over time when destinations get popularized. A little coconut-tree lined street in Parra has become a photo-shoot destination for selfies, bridal photos and group photos after Dear Zindagi brought even more underexplored areas into focus. It has become a traffic hazard and one that irks many locals. It is a narrow road where SUVs full of young adults waving in delight and inebriated joy have to contend with those wanting to go and pick up their children from school or simply get to work. 

When I was in Jamaica for a holiday, I found the spring break phenomenon a curious affair as Jamaica is one of those destinations where young Americans came to let their hair down and do all the things that they would not dare to do back in their own country. Goa seems to have performed a similar function in the lives of young Indians as it has that vibe of a place where anything goes. 

The dark underbelly of Goa has been the subject of films such as Go Goa Gone and Dum Maro Dum. Drug addiction, rave parties, being sloshed, bedding strangers, child trafficking, prostitution and commercial sex-work are all part of the backdrop in which tourists in groups seek to create their own share of fun memories in Goa. Date rapes, spiked drinks and other such horror stories abound too. However what is distilled in the tourist’s imagination is of the blissfully carefree time in Goa. Yet, Goa feels so safe to Indian parents who send their children on their first trips away with friends. Finding drugs, rock and roll, alcohol, sex and crime are all easier here and yet it is considered safe. It is a wonder how this happens and it is important to note that it does.

How do these things impact our wellbeing? How can films be involved in creating a different kind of responsible fun? These are the kind of questions we were asking Bollywood in the 1980s when every second film had a lavish rape scene picturized, leaving cues about ‘how to rape’ and leaving nothing to imagination. Yet, there is a lushness to Goa that no matter how much it changes to a lesser version of itself, when people first arrive here, they have never seen anything like it, and they have never met themselves so relaxed.

In all these films relationships happen in the backdrop of a Goan landscape or seascape. These ‘scapes’ are important containers for what may emerge if we honour the places we go to as tourists. Picking up our garbage behind us is just one way in which we may do this but becoming more conscious that we holiday in spaces where daily lives are being lived may inject a different quality of joy in the tourists and the locals. A joy in which we may all be more connected.

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