PAGE 04: Defibrillating Konkani Cinema

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By Sachin Chatte

To pick up from where I left in yesterday’s column, Konkani cinema has had its share of ups and downs, but mostly a flat line. It would be unfair to call it a ‘film industry’ because it is not an organized sector. Most of the film makers and producers are on their own, making films out of love and passion for cinema. The Entertainment Society of Goa is doing its bit to bring them under one umbrella, with its guide to the Goan film fraternity.

The first Konkani film Mogacho Anvddo was released in 1950, and even though there were films made intermittently, there were only four significant ones in the next half a century – the other notable ones being Amchem Noxib (1963), Nirmon (1966), and Bhuierantlo Munis (1977) which was the first color film in Konkani.

Thanks to VHS and single-screen theatres that were not in the best shape, the 80s and 90s weren’t kind to cinema, and Konkani films were no different. The revival only happened after IFFI moved to Goa in 2004 and subsequently Aleesha (2004), Antarnaad (2006), Sawariya (2009), Paltadacho Munis (2009), O’ Maria (2010), Digant (2012), Baga Beach (2013), Nachom-ia-Kumpasar (2014), A Rainy Day (2014), K Sera Sera (2016), and Juze (2017) made it to the Indian Panorama at IFFI. For a state that has a population of just 15 lakhs, the majority of whom live in the hinterland, that is an impressive number of films, especially if you consider the fact that there is probably a much better chance of getting lucky at the notoriously crooked casinos floating on the Mandovi River, than expecting to break even after investing money in producing a film. 

For the last few years, there has been an unofficial section at IFFI for Konkani and Marathi films. One could argue either way whether there should be such a section or not but it does serve as a boost for local filmmakers. This year, only two short films could make the cut, both made by young filmmakers – a student of Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute (SRFTI) Suyash Kamat’s Written In The Corners and Shinvar by Manguirish Bandodkar, who studied at the Panjim-based Vinsan Academy. 

With technology at their disposal, it has become easier to make low budget films but all the stakeholders agree that more needs to be done on several counts. How can one encourage young filmmakers to start making short films? In fact, before that, how can the state help aspiring filmmakers to study film-making given that barring the government institutes like FTII, it is not a cheap affair. Presently, the Art and Culture department gives scholarships to some students but there is no specific scheme related to films – their scholarships are for art, across the board.

Once they learn filmmaking, they should also be encouraged to make short films, to start with. A small fund of say Rs25 lakhs a year, which is a minuscule amount compared to the IFFI budget, could be set aside for young and deserving filmmakers to make 4-5 short films every year. Any aspiring filmmaker in the state will tell you that a pittance sum of Rs.5 lakhs would be akin to a king’s ransom to make a short film. 

There is a Film Finance scheme run by the government, but in its present avatar, the money (50% or 50 lakhs, whichever is lower) to the producer comes a good year or two after making the film. The problem there is pretty evident – you need extremely deep pockets to get involved in the business of movies.

The government could consider something on the lines of a Film Development Corporation, run by the Entertainment Society of Goa, where they shortlist scripts, mentor them and help produce a film, all done professionally at a minimum cost.  

Once a film is made, it is up to the audience to patronize and support it. That sadly doesn’t happen a lot. Only a once in lifetime film like Nachom-ia-Kumpasar (2014) gets a repeat audience, which is an exception to the rule. Most Konkani films are barely seen by 2-3% of the population. If that number goes up, to say 8-10% of Goans watching Konkani films, it will be a game-changer for Goan cinema. Here’s hoping for a better future for our home state’s cinema. 

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