By Luis Dias
I guess we all regard our childhood years with rose-tinted glasses. But growing up in an unspoilt Goa in the 1970s was a real privilege. And it is hard to recall those wonderful years without an accompanying soundtrack: the music of Chris Perry, sung inimitably by the one and only Lorna. You heard it everywhere in those days: on the radio, in homes, on the beaches, even (if memory serves me right) out of Ambassador Cars distributing UG (United Goans) pamphlets like confetti at election time. This was a time before even audio cassettes, so we are talking about a record player in the car playing 45s and LPs hooked up to loudspeakers on our bumpy Goan roads. No wonder they had to crawl as they went about their business.
When I left Goa in 1998, the ‘slice’ of Goa I packed in my suitcase was a cassette which had both its sides crammed with the Lorna-Chris Perry cantaram that some enterprising person had copied onto it from records (you could still hear the hiss and crackle). Listening to them brought me back home in ways that nothing else could. Whether it staved off homesickness or added to it is hard to say.
Every Goan must have a personal favourite from the hit parade of Chris Perry-Lorna cantaram. Mine is unquestionably “Tuzo Mog”. The way it opens with a drum flourish, the enigmatic brass chord progression that makes you wonder what’s going to happen next, and sets the stage as it were for the grand entrance of Lorna’s voice, the lovelorn lyrics in verse punctuated by that unique punchy pungent sound that only Goan trumpeters can produce. It’s perfect.
I began to hear about the new Konkani film “Nachom-ia Kumpasar” on social media in December, and the promotional ‘trailer’ video clips that I watched, especially the amazing quality of the soundtrack, blew my mind. I had to see the film. Catching fleeting glimpses of my musician friends Rocky Lazarus, Roy Menezes and Selvyn Braganza on the trailer clip only added to the allure. I wrongly assumed the film would run at Inox, and almost missed it. I have to thank Fanquito Martins for getting me tickets to a sell-out show within hours.
Bardroy Barreto’s “Nachom-ia Kumpasar” is a labour of love. It is a film musical, but the story is told very much in the medium of Concanim tiatr. The idea of stringing twenty of the most iconic songs Goa has ever produced while telling the story of an incredibly talented trumpeter-composer Lawrence Vaz and his relentless, complex, star-crossed obsession with Donna, a singing sensation that he helps create and also smother, is a master stroke. The disclaimer at the beginning of the film states that any resemblance to real-life characters is unintentional, but who is anyone kidding? This is a powerful love story that has so many layers to it, and their ‘love-child’, the musical partnership that resulted from the frisson, the chemistry between them is as timeless as it is legendary. Their prodigious string of smash hits has never been repeated, and might never be.
I had always thought that no-one could come close to reproducing the quintessential 1960s big-band sound that Chris Perry made his own, but Ronnie Monserrate and the rest of the musicians come admirably close. And although in the film storyline Donna is the long-suffering victim, her role becomes the show-stealer thanks both to Palomi Ghosh’s bubbly portrayal of her character and to Cielda Pereira who puts so much oomph and pizzazz into her singing to give Donna real ‘soul’ in every sense of the word. In contrast, Vijay Maurya’s Lawrence broodily sulks through most of the film.
The tiatr ploy of the comedy routine between scenes (a trio of friends gossiping at the foot of the village cross), and the sage observations of the friendly neighbourhood drunk help move the story along. Prince Jacob and John D’Silva are truly in their comedic element. But yet the plot plods a little after the interval, and it was the anticipation of yet another blockbuster song that held my interest instead.
Bardroy Barreto is a stickler for authenticity and detail through the film. Great pains are taken to recreate the life in the Goan village ‘kudds’ in 1960s Bombay, the dance clubs, the studios, even the street scenes and the vehicles on the roads. And yet in one scene when Chic Chocolate raises his trumpet in the first song, we hear a saxophone instead.
But this is a minor quibble. “Nachom-ia Kumpasar” is groundbreaking. Such a film of such high quality in every sense is long overdue and makes us all proud, on so many levels. Proud that there are young Goan directors who want to celebrate the great Goan musicians of yesteryear, and do such a good job of it; and that there are top-notch singers like Cielda Pereira and a whole band of musicians who can make us hopeful about a glorious future for Goan music. The credits went up too quickly for me to catch all the names as the audience began to leave the theatre, so I apologise in advance in case there are names I have not acknowledged.
I can’t wait for the music soundtrack of this film to hit the stores. I got all I wanted for Christmas, and then some!