Tiatr, Goa’s most popular form of art is underway to complete 125 years on April 17. Over the years tiatr has not only served as a source of entertainment but has even explored several themes and issues pertaining to the society.
NT BUZZ finds how these 125 years of tiatr have helped the people to voice their opinions
VENITA GOMES | NT BUZZ
The emergence and evolution of tiatr can be dated back to April 17, 1892, when Lucasinho Ribeiro from Assagao staged the first tiatr ‘Italian Bhurgo’ at Alfred Theatres in Bombay, where he had initially migrated in search of a job. Much impressed with Italian Opera, he got himself employed as a backstage artiste for the opera titled ‘Italian Boy’. When the troupe left India, he purchased the costumes used by the Italians as he wanted to write a similar operetta in Konkani.
With the help of Caetaninho Fernandes from Taleigao and Joao Agostinho Fernandes and Agostinho Mascarenhas both from Margao, he staged ‘Italian Bhurgo’ thus giving birth to Konkani form of drama in 1892. There was a need to set-up the stage and distinguish various scenes and that’s when he came up with the unique solution of dropping the curtains on the stage. Behind the curtain the backstage artistes would get ready with their next scene, while in front of the curtain the artistes would perform.
Joao Agostinho, known as ‘Pai Tiatrist’ (Father of Tiatr) added the Goan essence to the tiatr. “For nearly a decade, the themes of tiatr were adaption or translated from English plays. To bring originality to the newly introduced form of art, Agostinho started writing original scripts on themes highlighting injustice in the society,” says tiatrist and vice-chairman of 125th Anniversary of Tiatr Celebration Committee, Tomazinho Cardozo.
Agostinho worked on themes like dowry harassment, alcoholism, dignity of labour and other social practices. ‘Cavelchi Sundori’ was his first play written and staged in 1895 that depicted the Goan life. In 1943, he staged a tiatr titled ‘Bebdo’ an anti-alcoholic campaign, which also highlighted protection of women.
Recalling the era of 90’s when tiatr began to gain popularity in Goa, Cardozo says: “Every feast in Goa was incomplete without a tiatr. There had to be a tiatr which was written and acted by the villagers. Gradually, after liberation the tiatr had the freedom of speech and that’s when people started expressing their opinions through tiatr.”
Cardozo opines that tiatr has dealt with most of the topics pertaining to society: “Many new writers and directors started entering the industry and that’s how themes like politics, environment and social issues came into tiatr.”
In the second half of the twentieth century great playwrights like Minguel Rod, Aleixinho de Candolim, C Alvares, Kid Boxer, Anthony D’Sa and other artistes produced several tiatrs.
Also, Fr Alvaro Renato Mendes wrote four plays on biblical themes titled ‘Nazuk Teatr’ in 1955, a seven act play ‘Fatimachim Disnnim’ (1957); Ramakant Poulencar (1934-2006) has tiatrs like: ‘Murt Tuvench Ghoddoili’, ‘Sukhi Sonvsarachi Chavi’ and ‘Savlli Vikha Rukhachi’ being plays published in 1979.
Tiatr artiste, Antonette Mendes spoke about how it was not easy for women to come up on stage and perform. She says: “Back then, women faced several problems if they wanted to participate in a tiatr, over time the trend changed and thus tiatr gave space to female artistes too. Before the advent of female artistes getting into tiatrs and actively participating in them, men would enact female roles.”
Regina Fernandes was one of the first women to appear on tiatr stage in 1904. In fact the tiatr ‘Bhattkara’, in which she first appeared, was staged on November 22, 1904 at the Gaiety Theatre in Bombay. She was the wife of Joao Agostinho Fernandes who wrote and directed the tiatr ‘Bhattkara’.
Over the years Konkani drama has upped its ante and become more accessible. “Earlier it was difficult for women but now times have changed and things have become simple and easy. The tiatr festivals are encouraging newcomers to write tiatr and keep it alive. A lot of effort is put in by Tiatr Academy of Goa (TAG) and Kala Academy as well Directorate of Art and Culture to promote tiatr,” says tiatrist, Annie Quadros.
Over the years, tiatr has had artistes like Roseferns, Prince Jacob, Mario Menezes and John D’Silva C Alvares, Remmie Colaso, John Claro Fernandes, Prem Kumar, M Boyer and several others who have contributed to the stage in some way or the other. Cardozo says: “As a part of 125 years celebration we felicitated several tiatr artistes from each village for their contribution in the field of tiatr and to carry forward the grand celebration of 125 years, the Government has initiated the 125th Anniversary of Tiatr Celebration Committee which will organise several year-long activities.”