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Journey of a Konkani stage tradition

Tiatr comprising popular musical stage productions has been an integral part of the Goan ethos. Tiatr, which originates from the Portuguese word for theatre – teatro – came into existence when ‘Italian Bhurgo’ adapted from an Italian play, was staged at the New Alfred Theatre, Bombay, on Easter Sunday, on April 17, 1892. The documentation of this more-than-125-year-old art form had become necessary as many aspects of its journey were blurred.

‘Tiatr – Looking Back 125 Years’, a recently made documentary takes audiences back to 1892 when Tiatr was born, and then leads them through the century of its history.

The documentary written and directed by Dharmanand Vernekar has apt musical accompaniment by Mukesh Ghatwal. The script guidance is by Tomazinho Cardozo, himself a Tiatr actor and writer.

Dharmanand states that the documentary begins with the arrival of Anna, a young girl, in Goa to meet her grandfather, after answering her post graduation exam in Mumbai. “Anna is looking for a subject to research for her doctoral studies,” he notes, pointing out that in her quest for something interesting and challenging, she stumbles upon this beautiful phenomenon called Tiatr.

“In fact, she happens to travel to a remote Goan village and has a chance to watch Tiatr,” Dharmanand states, “She is dumbfounded by its charm and authenticity, its ability for social satire and change, and finally, the fact that it has survived in its near pure form across a century.” He also informs that Anna wants to find the origin and journey of Tiatr along with the developments, changes and the fine nuances of this art form, across the century.

“Soon Anna’s grandfather introduces her to his friend, who is a professional Tiatrist,” Dharmanand mentions, pointing out, “And then we travel in flashbacks and revisit the history tracing the origin of Tiatr and its development till date, through a very absorbing screenplay.”

The documentary also brings out the creative works of a number of Tiatrists down the years, as well as traces the era of various Konkani drama companies. It further touches upon early participation of women in Tiatr, when it was not prevalent in other Indian theatre forms. The path breaking transformation of ground-based Khells to the stage performances of Khell Tiatr, evolution of the stage Tiatr, participation of Hindus and Muslims in Tiatr, formation of Goan troups and their overseas tours to gulf countries, Karachi and elsewhere… Everything finds place in this documentary.

The documentary is a treasure house of information about Tiatr, with clips of popular and innovative Tiatr, besides personalities and famous characters on the Tiatr stage. This colourful montage of emotions on stage and reactions of audiences needs to be seen by everyone and cherished.

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