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Goan Artists

JOE ROSE - Salt-n-Pepper of Konkani Tiatr

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HIGHLY talented tiatrist and singer Joe Rose has been riding on the crest of popularity for several years. Tiatr audiences lap up his lovable, satirical songs and marvel at his excellent character roles. At Bonaventure D'Pietro's tiatr "Boroinnar-Director" staged recently in Anjuna, Joe Rose had to appear again and again five times, to repeat a song by public demand. The consummate artiste peppers his lyrics and dialogues with down-to-earth Konkani expressions, which the audience admire greatly. He has proved his mettle in singing, composing songs, penning plays and enacting difficult roles on the stage. He has contributed mightily to Konkani culture through the stage and his audio albums. While Alfred Rose was the first to record Konkani songs on the cassette, Joe Rose (though hailing from the same village-Aldona-but not related), happens to be the first to introduce several individual singers on a Konkani audio cassette. The Bombay Xavierite was the founder of the Maharashtra Konkani Kala Saunstha, to whose wellbeing the late Romeo Mendes contributed quite a lot. Alister Miranda happened to be talking to Joe Rose at the latter's residence at Olaulim, and we found the conversation quite relevant and worth reproducing here.

AM: Your association with Konkani begins right from your college days.
JR: I was involved with Konkani right from my school days. Despite being a Bombay-educated person, who was not very familiar with Konkani, except for speaking it at home, I took a liking for it. I picked up all the proverbs and anecdotes from my mother. Later on, my association with late Dr Simon Fernandes, the editor of Goa Times, enhanced by affinity to my mother tongue.

AM: Was Dr Simon responsible to usher on the stage?
JR: As a child artiste, I performed in some plays like "Bernadette of Lourdes", "Fatima Saibinn" and later on in the college, I performed in "Venice Xaracho Vepari" and "Pontius Pilate". Most of the plays were written by Dr Simon Fernandes. I also kept myself busy with his press activities, doing some proof reading, and that is how I strengthened my love for Konkani.

Caught in the actAM: How did you become a tiatrist?
JR: Dr Simon used to get passes for the tiatrs, which at that time used to be staged at PT Bhangwadi in Bombay. Sometimes, when he was busy he would send me for the drama, to do its review. That's how I got exposed to Konkani and tiatr. Gradually, I took to scripting plays myself. My first play was "Imtteache Bhognnar". I was helped by the late Seby Coutinho, a great character artiste, in scripting and directing the play, which was an adaptation of Moliere's "The Miser".

AM: You have a penchant for comedy and character roles.
JR: I was inspired by Moliere, whom I studied at college. Otherwise, as an artiste I took on a variety of roles. But I never expected to take the role of an old man until actor-director Prem Kumar cast me in the role of an old man in his tiatr "Jivit Ek Soponn" (Life is a Dream). That's how I realised that I could handle an old man's role too.

AM: Which would you consider as your best role?
JR: I have put in my best in every performance, and I have always been rewarded with a very good response from the audience. But among my most challenging roles is of the saintly priest, Fr Savio Gama, who was a charismatic person, whom the people had seen, heard and changed their lives. To enact Fr Savio's role, immediately after his death, was definitely a very stiff challenge. When his mother came to watch the play at Verna, she exclaimed "it was like looking at my son". I have not kept track of the other roles, which I enacted under noteworthy Konkani tiatr directors. But I did an excellent villain's role in Peter Vaz's "Ostoreamcho Sad", which featured tiatr stalwarts like M Boyer, Remmie Colaco, Jacinto Vaz, C Alvares. I also had a strong role in "Sonvsar Sudhorlo Munis Sudhronk nam".

AM: How did you cultivate the talent to act?
JR: I feel that the talent for acting is an inborn tendency. You cannot acquire acting talent unless it comes from within. You cannot make an actor, you have to be born an actor.

AM: Most of your songs involve subtle satire. How do you manage to have your compositions drip with Goa's ethnic and enchanting lilt, often drawn from the mando?
JR: For me, the subject or theme of the song is of prime relevance. After deciding on a particular subject, I treat it--perhaps the way one would do in a lab--to explore its optimum potential. When I compose a song with a particular type of a message, I search for a particular tune, which would suit the idea and create the right mood for the song.

Making a pointAM: Time and again you have sung such lovely duets. Whom would you point at as your ideal partner in the duet genre?
JR: I have sung a lot of duets with Antonette and with Succorine. But I have also explored the potential of trios and quarters for their entertainment scope, to escape the monotony of solo singing found in our tiatrs, and add more colour to it.often at the request of other tiatrists. I have a penchant for these items and would love to add a duet to my repertoire if a female singer is available.

AM: You have also written, directed and staged your own dramas.excellent ones at that.
JR: Among the dramas I have written, there are some, which were appreciated highly by the tiatr audiences in Mumbai and Goa, like "Dev Konnacho?" The play revolves around the interference of politics in religion. Religion is used to create tension among people for selfish, political mileage. I had used a lot of special effects to enhance the performance. For "Ekuch Rogot", I had five scenes picturised in 16 mm, including the titles and a sequence showing a suicide from a five-storey building. In fact, I am the second director, after Prem Kumar, to make the use of this media (film) in tiatr. My last drama "Kal, Aiz ani Faleam" dwelt primarily on drug abuse. It illustrated how today's younger generation, with particular emphasis on girls, doesn't care for their future, and lives to rue the carefree days when terrible consequences visit them unfailingly.

AM: Perhaps you have some exciting, new project in the pipeline already.
JR: I have a tele-serial story in mind. I plan to produce it with a dynamic artiste, Joaquim D'Souza of Joma Builders. The off-beat theme will go extremely well with the younger generation, not merely because it is highly entertaining but also by virtue of its educative aspect. You don't fall in love.you rather fall in a gutter. But you are elevated in love, which is something sublime.Parent's love for their children, a doctor's concern for his patient, a priest's concern for a parishioner.A type of affectionate feeling. not "mog" but "moipass".The tele-serial has all these relevant social factors.

AM: You have also evolved a new variety in entertainment recently.
JR: I have a variety entertainment programme in Mumbai in Konkani, to offset the drawback of finding proper artistes to produce full-length plays there. I have written four or five skits like "Don Utram", "Ters", "Musical Interview", "Okol tuji, Bail mhoji", "Mudans" and "Pai-putachem Kazar". Each skit brims with entertainment and could run from 15 to 20 minutes.

AM: Without songs?
JR: No. There are twelve songs, four of which are sung by me. I include two folk dances by a very talented group from Fausto da Costa's GRAF, providing virtually every sort of traditional Goan dance. I sprinkle the entire performance with my jokes, as a compere. Along with another compere, we have the ball rolling continuously to provide non-stop entertainment. I have performed 71 shows of this type so far, in Mumbai.

AM: Won't you introduce it in Goa?
JR: I can't find regular artistes, who could fit in with our exacting schedule. Perhaps I could get our normal ensemble from Bombay someday soon.

AM: Your immense contribution to the promotion of Goan culture through Konkani theatre in Bombay and elsewhere has somehow not earned the recognition of the Goa Government. It happened to all the stalwarts of Konkani culture, particularly Bombay-based tiatrists. Would you consider this as some sort of discrimination?
JR: Politics seems to play a dirty role in this particular drama. A person can be an effective politician but it hardly makes that person a master of art and culture. I wouldn't judge a politician in his specific field but where art and culture are concerned, only an artiste can assess an artiste's real worth. I feel that the Kala Academy deserves someone rooted, born in art. Political and ministerial interference has put a damper on artistes. Government recognition escapes us because they do not realise the value of an artiste's role in society.

AM: May be, they feel that way because you are stationed mostly in Bombay.
JR: I am an ambassador of Konkani in Bombay, where the population of Goans is miniscule, particularly now. To put up a drama in Goa is very easy, the halls are very cheap compared to Bombay, where we have to pay Rs.16,000 to Rs.18,000 per show. So, we are doing a very big service to our mother-tongue there. I don't say that artistes are not doing a service to Konkani, every tiatrist has been contributing to its cause for over a century. But in Bombay, in Maharashtra State, by putting up Konkani shows, we promote Konkani beyond Goa's borders. Hence we are ambassadors of Konkani in these places.Not merely in Bombay but even in the Gulf region, in Canada, UK.or wherever Goans have a significant presence.

AM: The tiatr took birth in Bombay, but does it dwell there anymore?
JR: The state of tiatr in Bombay has not been good because the TV serials claim the attention of all the people with a plethora of channels. Another setback has been the fact that the old school of committed artistes are virtually extinct. It becomes difficult to stage a proper, traditional tiatr with the usual seven 'pordde' which Goans love to watch. Besides the lack of acting talent, the cost of sets and lighting has skyrocketted, with the addition of Rs.16,000 to Rs.18,000 for the hall along with an almost equal amount of deposit.

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