Tiatr, a traditional art form in Goa, has completed 125 years of its existence since inception. During the 19th century, the drama forms of ‘zagor’ and ‘khell’ were popular in Goa, especially in Salcete taluka, and were presented at street corners and other open spaces available in the villages.
During the last quarter of the 19th century, ‘zagors’ found their way to then Bombay but the gaudy nature of this form of entertainment became a cause of embarrassment for the educated Goans in the metropolitan city. Consequently, the upper and middle-class Goans settled in Mumbai gave up watching ‘zagors’ and participated in English and Portuguese dramas.
In 1890, when Lucasinho Ribeiro from Assagao reached Bombay in search of a decent job, he witnessed the poor entertainment provided by the Goans in the form of ‘zagors’. As Ribeiro was a lover of music and stage art, when he found a job in the Italian Opera Company, he wrote down the first Konkani tiatr, ‘Italian Bhurgo’, a translation of an Italian opera by Gonzalez Brothers.
It was on April 17, 1892 (Easter Sunday) that the first ever Konkani tiatr, ‘Italian Bhurgo’, written and directed by Lucasinho Ribeiro, was staged at the new Alfred Theatre in Bombay. Today, although Joao Agostinho Fernandes is known as Pai Tiatrist – the Father of Konkani Tiatr, he has acknowledged that it was Lucasinho Ribeiro who was the pioneer of Konkani tiatr.
Since then, 27 tiatrs, out of which, 23 were original works, were written by Joao Agostinho Fernandes, besides groups Lusitan, Dona Amelia, Don Carlos, Douglas Comic Opera, Karachiwallas Delectable Company, Goan Union, Lazarus Comic Opera, Goa Nacional and others, who staged Konkani tiatrs and operas in Bombay.
Today, with the emergence of several new tiatr writers and directors, tiatr has indeed reached greater heights in the form of script, direction, stage and light sets, besides the presentation of songs in varied forms. But unfortunately, in some of the tiatrs staged today, vulgarity has crept in the comedy scenes, which hasn’t set well with the audience.
Gone are the days when comedians of yesteryears, like Charlie Chaplin of the Konkani stage, Jacint Vaz, M Boyer and several others, would evoke laughter with their mere presence on stage. Their decent comedy through body language and witty dialogues was enough to tickle the funny bone of the audience.
Despite the hike in tickets from Rs 50 to Rs 100 and recently to Rs 150, the spectators, especially the tiatr buffs, don’t mind shelling out money from their pockets, but many do expect something worth the entertainment and value for their ticket. But many viewers get disheartened and walk out midway when they spot something distasteful or dull on stage.
Rafael Pereira from Panjim is a tiatr buff and never misses out any new production on the Konkani stage. But his recent experiences were very bitter as he watched two latest tiatrs that carried a heavy dose of vulgarity in the comic acts. “Earlier,” Pereira recalls, “when the spectators sensed vulgar scenes on stage, many viewers from the audience would stand and shout, thus expressing their discomfort towards some of those artistes, who indulged in malicious acts and dialogues.
Today, our tiatrs will rise and reach greater heights only when vulgarity stops and our artistes provide not what is pleasing to them, but what the audience expects from them.”
Pereira feels that the trend that prevailed earlier wherein the spectators would bluntly approach some of the comedians and singers that indulged in indecent acts and renditions, should follow soon. “It’s only then that some of the artistes who don’t uphold the decorum on stage will mend their ways,” he opines.
Allan Brian Couto, another tiatr fan from Panjim, who will not hesitate to travel from north to south in order to watch new tiatr productions, vented similar views with regard to vulgarity in comic scenes. “Most of the artistes on stage are Catholics. What example are they providing to their fellow Goans in the audience?” he inquires.
“As majority of the spectators come from the lower class, especially in the south, they enjoy whatever is provided to them on stage as they themselves are often found using rude words in their speech,” Couto opines.
“So, it’s quite obvious that objection will never follow from such an audience and presuming that the tiatr fans are truly enjoying themselves, the director along with the comedians will make efforts to provide similar masala in tiatrs in future,” he adds.
Pereira says that he has watched tiatrs where comedy was below the belt and spectators have expressed their discontent towards some comedians. “Many decent and educated viewers have even dared to walk out of the auditorium,” he reveals.
“For tiatr to survive in the near future,” states another tiatr fan on condition of anonymity, “vulgarity on stage, especially in comedy acts, has to stop. When people pay and come to watch tiatrs, they should be provided with pure entertainment, with good and decent comedy and songs with morals. The audience pays money for three hours of pure entertainment to help them unwind from their daily routine.”
“A check has to be maintained in the utterance of words by some of the comedians, which often carry double meaning,” she states, adding, “The audience also consists of families, with children and youngsters. What are the artistes trying to convey through this vulgarity in comedy and songs?”
“Let the directors’ productions turn into an instant success and hit with decent and clean comedy, rather than comedy that hits below the belt,” she concludes. [H]