Well done Maria

Film: O Maria (Konkani with English subtitles), Cast: Shernaz Patel, Cory Goldberg, Directed by: Rajendra Talak, Duration: 110 mins. Rating: * * *

It is good to see more and more Konkani films being made lately with at least a couple of celluloid films being made every year. Of course, Konkani films still have a long way to go, both in terms of quality and quantity. Laxmikant Shetgaonkar’s Paltadcho Munis was an exception in terms of quality. Rajendra Talak has been a lone ranger of sorts making Konkani films for sometime now, and while his previous film was disappointing, the good news is that O Maria, his latest offering, is a much superior effort.
The subject of sale of land in Goa and the outsider/insider issue has been plaguing the state for sometime and O Maria revolves around the same subject. Last year, another Konkani film Zagor was also made on the same lines, but this one is better in terms of the overall execution. The story written by Talak is a straightforward one – Maria (Shernaz Patel) is a middle aged single woman who lives with her ailing mother (Sulabha Arya) and has the odd foreigner as a paying guest at her beachside home. While one her nephew looks upon her as a mother, the other (Aryan Khedekar) teams up with his mom to sell their ancestral property to one Jitu bhai (Tiku Talsania). For this he needs Maria’s approval.
Mike (Cory Goldberg), an American staying as a guest with Maria, also gets dragged into the issue. Needless to say, Maria refuses to budge and the film is largely about how she surmounts the odds.
With a topic like this the chances were very high that the film would be over the top and preachy, but to Talak’s credit it doesn’t really go out of control. He shows a fair amount of maturity in handling the issue – any other director would have been tempted to shout from the rooftop to make his point, cinematically that is. Rhetoric is preferably avoidable (like the villagers electing Mike as their leader) and there is a bit of it here, but, fortunately, it doesn’t spiral.
On the flip side, the screenplay could have been tighter and some real punches could have been thrown in to make a deeper impact. Since regional films are shot on a shoestring budget, technically, you can’t expect a great deal. The music by Remo Fernandes is peppy and the song Lara Lara Chi Cantara is one of the best new compositions as far as Konkani music is concerned. The background music (by Ashok Patki) is overtly used with hardly any moments of silence thus diluting the effect when it is really needed.
As for the cast, which comprises of a whole rage of actors from tiatrists in cameos like John D’Silva and Roseferns, to seasoned actors like Shernaz Patel, Sulabha Arya and Tiku Talsania, there is no knockout performance but by and large it fits the bill.  On the whole O Maria has a few flaws but it is still worth a watch and certainly the kind of Konkani cinema that should be promoted.