Theatre in Goa remains a much loved art form. Rooted in Goa’s culture across communities, it has been a source of empowerment, employment, awakening and much more. Today, on World Theatre Day, NT BUZZ finds out about the theatre scene in Goa
Danuska Da Gama I NT BUZZ
Artistes the world over are celebrating! World Theatre Day is celebrated annually on March 27. Initiated in 1961, the day recognises the value and importance of theatre as an art form. The objective of this day is also to act as a wakeup call for governments, politicians and institutions, particularly those that haven’t understood the significance that theatre has to the masses.
Theatre is intrinsic to Goa’s culture
Theatre is a popular art form in Goa. Tiatrs, nataks and plays have been an integral part of the Goan way of life. The art form has somehow permeated across villages and urban areas. Theatre has given rise to several artistes in the state. These artistes not only earn their bread and butter through their talent, but have been able to strike a chord with Goans. There are also those who pursue theatre out of sheer love and passion for the art form.
Anand Masur, a math professor at Chowgule College, has been directing and acting in theatrical performances since 1981. Theatre fascinates him as much as numbers and equations do. But here (on stage), he gets to deal with all art forms together. “Live interaction with the audience is what is most fascinating,” Masur tells us.
Goa witnesses a number of theatrical activities staged by the government, individuals or organisations. This clearly shows that the medium is still quite popular, though other forms are also preferred. Masur believes that there is a fluctuation when it comes to the medium as there is cinema television and the internet, but theatre will never get extinct. “It will be preferred for its natural existence,” he says.
Comedian John D’Silva says that tiatr has a 125-year legacy in Goa and is popular among the Konkani speaking community throughout the world including Cayman Islands, the Gulf countries, London and Germany, which speaks for the popularity of the Goan theatre.
More power to people
Theatre can teach one a lot. It teaches everybody, from the artistes to the audience watching. “If one is involved in theatre (with the right perspective), one can wander into every experience with ease. Very rarely do these people get tensed or become unhappy with small issues. Those who are part of theatre are also alert and react to social issues, thus also becoming advocates for social change or social activists,” Masur says.
Theatre enthusiast, Tanvi Kamat Bambolkar has taken forward the baton of promoting theatre in the state, just as her family has been doing for years now. While pursuing a doctorate, her research centred on folk theatre in Goa and she conducted a critical study of select folk forms. While for many people, going to watch a play is a means of getting entertained, Tanvi believes that the ultimate aim of theatre is not to entertain but inform. “Rather, theories of the beginning of theatre lay emphasis on it. It might have served as a tool of leisure in later stages but it began as a mode of informing what has happened or what happens around us,” she explains before adding that theatre is also a mode of expression and creation for those who are otherwise unheard.
When it comes to social awakening, art has always paved its way, in a subtle manner or loud and vehemently. While Tanvi mentions that there have been incidences where theatre artistes have had to struggle to find their own voice, the scene in Goa has been far better.
Tanvi says: “Fortunately, theatre is a medium that can attack society with just one performance. And fortunately in Goa, in a theatre form like tiatr, there is the liberty of attacking political personalities without much censorship. This allows an artiste to be free in his or her expression,” she says emphasising the need for freedom of speech and expression in this art form.
Plays in Goa are mostly based on social issues or family drama and relate to what happens in Goan society. Political themes are often used on stage and have found great favour among people, but are often opposed by politicians. Satire and comedy are considered essentials along with songs (kaantaras and caants) that are composed specially for the taitrs/nataks.
Goa’s rich folk theatre
Folk theatre is a unique art form that brings together music, specially written dialogues, drama, acting and more. One that is intrinsic with the locals, it was used as a vital tool for interpersonal communication. Goa has a rich cultural history and the presence of folk theatre is witness to that fact.
Speaking about theatre in Goa, Tanvi says: “There are so many forms such as Zagor, Ranmaale, Kaalo, Lalit, Khell, etc. Every form has its own unique features. Most of them are ritualistic in nature and are performed mostly by agrarian communities but have several elements which have gone on to influence the new age theatre in Goa,” she says.
While some of the forms such as Perni Zagor are on the verge of extinction, Tanvi says, it is pleasing to see that some forms are flourishing not just in the traditional space but in modern spaces as well.
When it come to popularity, Tanvi tells us that it is pleasing to see a lot of youth running organisations which actively perform folk theatre in Goa as well as at the National level. They are also experimenting on several levels.
She says: “Folk theatre is also reaching the classes from the masses as it is not only the traditional communities but the non performing communities that are taking interest in witnessing and learning the techniques of folk theatre.” She goes on to say that folk theatre has become a part of research as well as an aspect to tap in the tourism industry of Goa. “Hopefully this will encourage the fraternity to carry on the rich legacy,” she exhorts.
While D’Silva believes that competing with time is an important factor to keep the tradition of Goan theatre alive, there is a need for constant change and innovation in tiatrs too. He says: “People, especially Goans have patronised tiatr by watching it. So our audience can preserve it by watching it, however, the audience should be given what they like,” he says.