WE SAW THE THUNDER, WHERE ARE THE RAINS?
By Damodar Mauzo
When IFFI moved to Goa in 2004, among those to oppose the move was Uma Da Cunha. Her opinion mattered as she is considered an expert on Indian filmdom. “Goa has no film culture,” she’d screamed. But the people at the helm took up the challenge to prove her wrong by bringing about the required change. Last year Uma was again in Goa and this is what she had to say, “The whole idea of a film festival is to inculcate film culture, and IFFI Goa has done a lot in that area.”
A lot of water has flown through Mandovi since 2004 and IFFI in Goa has happily come to stay. Goans do have complaints about the Government not doing enough to promote film culture in Goa. The sentiments are not unfounded. Yet, there is no denying that Goa has marched a long way ahead. The films made in Konkani are traveling wide and being screened at various film festivals. Laxmikant’s film Paltadacho Munis (The Man Beyond the Bridge, 2009), was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and went on to bag the International Federation of Film Critics FIPRESCI Prize for Discovery. It was chosen as the opening film at the IFFI 2009. At the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, it won the Narrative Jury Award. At the 57th National Film Awards, Paltadacho Munis won the Best Feature Film in Konkani. IFFI has made this difference, however the Goans aren’t content, they want more. I felt overwhelmed when one day, the veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal was on the phone all praises for the film and asked me to convey his compliments to Laxmikant Shetgaonkar. One may get the impression that Laxmikant has minted money by making this film. He certainly didn’t.
We do have young and passionate filmmakers like Bardroy Barretto and Miransha Naik who have the zeal to make out-of-box films. The musical by Bardroy, Nachom-ia Kumpasar (2014), has been a great success. It earned several awards and umpteen numbers of nominations. It swept ten awards at the 8th Goa State Film Festival (2015-2016) and also the National Film Award (2015). What is more important is that the Konkani viewers who shied away from Konkani cinema turned towards films. But, it did not earn enough money for the filmmaker to venture into more films. Thankfully, this film was funded by small contributions from the filmmaker’s friends. How can such a scenario encourage probable enthusiasts to take an initiative?
Juze (2017) is yet another film that earned a name but failed to gross revenue. It highlighted the exploitation of migrants while boldly depicting the changing character of this tourist destination. Premiered at the Hong Kong International Film Festival (2017), Juze earned a rare distinction of being commercially released in France. Konkani cinema has a long way to go. For that, we need many more Laxmikants, Bardroys and Miranshas.
We also have box office hits to our credit. Swapnil Shetkar, who directed the John D’Silva and Rajdeep Naik starrer Home Sweet Home (2014) ran in theatres for 101 days. Within two years, it completed 1000 screenings in theatres, which is a milestone record for a Konkani movie. It bagged six awards at the Eighth Goa State Film Festival. We have Rajendra Talak who had made seven Konkani and four Marathi films. Prasad Creations produced a few quality films –Enemy? (2015), Martin (2017), and Glory (2019). Going by the above yield, 2009 to 2019 looks to be the decade of thunders for Konkani movies. But where are the rains?
There is little doubt that the Entertainment Society of Goa (ESG) has played a stellar role in inculcating and furthering the film culture in Goa. But is it not what is expected of them? I am aware of a few schemes that are helping enterprising and talented film devotees who desire to give their best to Konkani cinema. But is it enough? Film City may be a distant dream. But film schools and infrastructure for filmmaking is an urgent need.
Press reports said that there would be two short films screened at IFFI this year. It may be noted that ESG introduced the Goan Section in 2014, as the Government was committed to promoting the Konkani Film industry. Firstly, be it IFFI or ESG, they refer to the films made in Goa as Goan films. Last year, Laxmikant Shetgaonkar rightly pointed out in the media that there is nothing called ‘Goan’ Films, they are ‘Konkani’ films. You don’t hear of Maharashtrian cinema or Karnataki cinema. They are Marathi or Kannada films. Konkani films need not be called Goan films unless one wants to distinguish between the Konkani films made in Karnataka and Goa. If a film in Konkani is made in Mumbai, would it be called a Maharashtrian film? Secondly, as the eminent film director Dnyanesh Moghe, who made Digant (2012), rightly says, “There is no ‘industry’ here. It is only a ‘scene’ that we have”.
ESG received only seven entries this year, five in the premiere section and two in the non-premiere. The jury comprising eminent professionals selected two films, both short, in each category. It is time ESG identifies the reasons for this shortfall. People will question – who is to blame for the poor crop of Konkani films?