There’s no doubt about the fact that the four-day Carnival is one of the biggest festivals of Goa. Many tourists schedule their holidays around Carnival as they want to experience the colourful spectacle on Goan roads.
But, was Goa’s Carnival always about the floats and parades on the streets? If not, what was it about? And, is it still practiced in the traditional ways?
A TRADITIONAL ART
Traditionally, Carnival was known as intruz, and mainly involved khell tiatr—a performance in villages that involved a story, songs and lot of fun. But now, this art form is mostly restricted to some villages of Salcete, in South Goa.
Documenting one such khell tiatr is Vince Costa’s short-film, titled, Chotrai Khellpolloinarank Chotrai. It features tiatrist, Xavier de Maina, and his troupe who are all geared up to perform the khell tiatrs in 21 villages of South Goa.
The short-film is available for free viewing on Vince’s YouTube channel:
Khell tiatr, which is usually held during Carnival and Easter, is staged in the public spaces of a village. It speaks about the socio-political or socio-cultural situation of a place. The highlight of the khell tiatr, just as in the case of tiatr, is its music. It consists of a kant (two verses and one chorus).
Nowadays this performing art is found in very few villages of Goa.
That’s the reason why Vince Costa decided to document it before it is lost forever.
“The khell tiatr is self-funded; sometimes they receive donations from people. It is purely driven by passion as these are non-ticketed performances,” says Vince.
This 14-minute odd film portrays the vibe of khell tiatr well, and also the audience which gathers to watch this performance, which is usually held at a village square. Even though we now have other modes of entertainment, the khell tiatr is still a crowd-puller as it speaks in the local language and is about the local issues.
Prior to this short film, Vince did a three-part mini-series on Panjim’s Carnival, titled, ‘Carnaval’, for Get Creative Goa’s instagram page https://www.instagram.com/p/CacMu5ED4Xp/
It featured veterans in the field such as Francisco Martins, who is known as the ‘float king’ or ‘Mr Carnival’; Aloo Gomes Pereira; Fatima Alvares, who spoke about the Carnival of yesteryears before the commencement of floats.
For Vince, it is necessary to document such collective history because, in this fast-paced world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get a sense of the past. Such documentation also speaks largely about the socio-cultural aspect of a place.
Now, Vince is planning to document another feature of the olden day Carnival and that is zagor.
“This zagor is mainly performed by the Gawda community — the aboriginals — and mainly consists of songs. It is completely different from the zagors performed in other parts of Goa. These songs speak about the personal issues of the community — like the issues related to the bhatkar (landlord), extra-marital affairs, etc,” says he.
“Also, the language of these songs is far from pleasant. For the artistes, this performance is way of venting out the pent up frustrations. So, it is very cathartic for them. It is now mainly held in very few places in South Goa,” informs Vince.