By Casey Monteiro
The Covid crisis played havoc with celebrations and commemorations in Goa. The year 2020 was the birth centenary of noted Konkani tiatr writer-director lyricist, singer and actor-director, Celestino Santana Francisco, popularly known as C Alvares, who was born on August 1, 1920.
However, due to the pandemic, the occasion did not come into the spotlight.
Fr Dominic Alvares, member of the C Alvares and Brothers Memorial Trust and nephew of C Alvares, says, “We could not hold many programs or follow up on projects which we had planned which would pay tribute to C Alvares. We did hold a few musical shows prior to the run-up of the centenary and released a special postal cover, but beyond that we could not do much.”
Post the pandemic, however, the trust followed up on several projects they had set out to do and the one that recently saw the light of day was the naming of the C Alvares Marg (road) in Saligao, the ancestral village of the veteran.
C ALVARES' LEGACY
If one looks at the history of Saligao, then C Alvares will figure on its scroll of honour, says Fr Dominic.
C Alvares' voluminous output of work – in the form of over 100 dramas, and priceless contributions to the music scene and Konkani films – makes him worthy of the sobriquet given to him ie 'Ace director, ace writer, evergreen hero and king of duets' says Prof Andre Rafael Fernandes, who has written about tiatr greats (among them being C Alvares) in his thesis which has been published in book form titled When the Curtains Rise.
He was musically blessed, says Fr Dominic. He did not have any formal training in music, yet he would compose such melodious music. He would call musicians from Salcete to write the music score for the tunes he composed. When he had these sessions with them, the musicians would remark, “Tuge natural unch ut re Alvares”, which in Konkani translates to “Your musical excellence far exceeds that of ours.”
Hailing from a family of tiatr artistes, all of his five brothers were into theatre. Fr Dominic says that the influence of the Konkani folk plays Jagors, can be seen in C Alvares as the family were into this folk form.
Besides his rich contribution to the Konkani stage and celluloid, C Alvares was known to be a thorough gentleman, says Tina Costa, whose father Allen Costa was a well-known radio announcer and a tiatr artist himself.
“My father would tell us how C Alvares was a down to earth man, who looked well after his cast and was never motivated by money. He was a genuine person,” she says.
NOT JUST TIATRS, KONKANI MOVIES, TOO
It was not just in tiatrs that C Alvares won accolades. His acting prowess and ability to write beautiful lyrics and dialogues was seen even in Konkani movies.
In a span of 15 years, from 1963, C Alvares was part of several Konkani movies that went on to become classics says Prof Fernandes.
The evergreen musical hits from these movies, for instance Molbailo Dou (from the movie, Amche Noxib), Claudia (from the movie, Nirmonn) still mesmerise listeners with its melody and lyrics, says Tina.
He even won a national award for best actor for his performance in the Konkani film, Nirmonn.
FEMALE ARTISTES TAKE TO THE STAGE
At a time when women did not act on stage, C Alvares is credited for encouraging women to do so. Prof Fernandes cites how C Alvares even wrote an all-ladies show, Khuimcho Sacrament. Some who debuted on stage went on to act in movies as well, adds Tina.
Summing up the works of C Alvares is definitely no easy task. However, on the plaque on the C Alvares Road are his famous words, which one can hear in his song, Claudia, too, engraved in Konkani, which tries to do justice to the man and his memory, ‘Vhodllo Man Sounsarant Boreponn Dovrit Zalear Vopon’ (It’s a great honour on earth to sow goodness).