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THE BIG BAND THEORY

Konkani blues

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All the songs will be re-recorded in mono and live to maintain authenticity.

Nachoaea Kumpasar is possibly the most ambitious movie project from Goa. The film which will hit the screens in March next year showcases the role migrant Goan musicians played in giving Mumbai's music scene its cosmopolitan character.

It wasn't an easy movie to produce, especially since corporates were unwilling to invest in it. But Bardroy Barretto, the film's maverick director, had another idea that worked brilliantly. He, along with producer Angelo Braganza, started a word-of-mouth campaign to raise funds. Soon, friends, family and NRIs pitched in, waltzing in where millionaires feared to tread. A little later, there was over Rs 2 crore in the kitty;several people volunteered their services.

"The cost of this film is actually around Rs 6 crore, " Barretto says, on a set that resembles a '60s jazz club in Mumbai. "In retrospect, " he adds, "it was good the corporates rejected us. " The biggest single contribution for the movie was Rs 15 lakh, a mere 2. 5 per cent of the movie's cost, making it a truly democratic venture.

For Barretto, a Galgibaga boy who struck gold in Mumbai's advertising industry, the movie is the culmination of a life long dream. "Among the most vivid memories of my childhood, " he recalls, "are the many afternoon siestas, when we lay down and listened to Lorna singing Chris Perry's songs, on radio. " Then, like most Goans, he heard of the story behind much of that era's music - a love affair that everyone seemed to know of, was reflected in song lyrics, but was never discussed openly.

Barretto's mind was set. He had to make a movie on the lives of the two legends. But just as he set out to start the film in 2002, Perry, who revolutionised Konkani music by introducing jazz to it, passed away. Ten years later, Barretto finally got down to it. "I took a two-year sabbatical from work for this, " he says, gesturing toward his crew, many of who took time off to volunteer for the film. A brass band jumps on stage for yet another take on Nachoaea Labamba and the set reverberates with the kind of energy you rarely see on film sets. Even the camera crew works with the speed and efficiency of an F1 pit crew.

The film revolves around the lives of Lawry (inspired by Chris Perry) and his protege, Donna (inspired by Cordeiro). However, Barretto's efforts to create a biopic failed when Cordeiro, who had initially consented to Barretto's film, backed out of the project. Now, the project again took a new turn. "I will deal with Lawry and Donna's lives superficially, and focus on the music instead, " he says. "I've selected 20-odd songs, and the lyrics will tell the story. " Some of the songs that will describe the relationship the mentor shared with his protege are Americak Paushi (on flirting), and Sorga Rajeant (on death).

That is about as far as Barretto is willing to go with the relationship. He doesn't wish to be judgmental about the character. "They're flawed artistes, and that's how they're remembered, " he says. The movie will chronicle their lives from 1965 to 1974, in Mumbai, then move to 1994, when Cordeiro re-emerged after her self-imposed exile from music and end with Perry's death in 2002.

The film is not going to be only about Lawry and Donna, though. "Since this is a tribute, there will be characters loosely based on real figures, but they could be anybody, " says Barretto. The only other musician who will be named is Chic Chocolate, the Louis Armstrong lookalike from Aldona who had much of Mumbai under his spell in the '50s.

Nachoaea Kumpasar begins at Alfred's in Mumbai, then a landmark for aspiring musicians. All of Perry's songs will be re-recorded in mono and live, to maintain their authenticity. "But there won't be too many changes, " says Jackson Pereira, the music director. "It's important to stay true to the genre. "

Pereira, like most of the creative people involved, is Goan. "Our cast is 95 per cent Goan, " says Barretto. Word on the set is that the livewire director hardly sleeps. It's now 5 am, and the set is the hotel where Cordeiro performed for the first time after her long exile. There is a reason why the crew is here at the crack of dawn. "This is a running restaurant, " explains Barretto. "They gave it to us after dinner but we have to wind up before 5:30 am, so that they can open in time for breakfast. "

His friends on the set say Barretto pushed hard for a Goan to play the lead too, but couldn't find a suitable candidate. Later, he clarified: "To play Donna, you'd need to look like a Goan, be a jazz singer, and be a good actor. We pushed a few girls through several rounds of auditions, they weren't up to it. " Getting Konkani speaking actors was another problem. "While scouting around, I found the disdain Goans have for their own language (Konkani) quite shocking, " says Michael Arakkal, assistant director.

"We are hoping this film changes the perception of Konkani cinema, " he says. His producer, Angelo Braganza, hopes to take the film to Goans around the world, and hopes that other Konkani filmmakers have it easier after his mega-production hits theatres.

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