Russel Gonsalves has also penned the lyrics to three songs in the musical
"People are touchy about graves. Kids who have settled abroad don't care about their parents, who are living here all by themselves. But, when the parents die, they come to fight for a 'good' space where they can be buried," says Russel Gonsalves, a member of the East Indian community, and writer and director of the musical Khanchanvarch Naach.
The first ever play to be performed professionally in the East Indian dialect (mainly Marathi, with a sprinkling Konkani and Portuguese), it deals with the constantly shrinking space in the city for burying the dead, an issue that has long been plaguing the community.
Khanchanvarch Naach deals with the issue of shrinking spaces for graveyards in the city
A grave matter
The musical stars seven actors from the R&S East Indian Art and Cultural Group, Versova, including Gonsalves, who has also penned the lyrics to the three songs that feature in it. The play opens with parishioners who have different opinions about the priest at their church and his policies. "The conundrum arises when the priest announces that they are planning to convert the cemetery on the church grounds into a space for church activities," shares Gonsalves.
Dominic, the lead character, his daughter Nancy and her husband Rocky, as well as Dominic's childhood friend John, are progressive and in favour of the change. However, there are others like Jujiya, another friend of Dominic's, who believes the priests have a hidden agenda. It is this clash of ideologies that the musical attempts to capture. "It's a heavy topic, which is why I have introduced a lot of comedy into it so it doesn't get too serious," says Gonsalves about the musical, which is also the inaugural event of the annual Mobai Gaothan Panchayat (MGP) Festival, East Indian Sann 2017.
He adds, "Although the issue at hand needs to be discussed, our main aim is to preserve our language and culture."
A song for society
Incidentally, this style of musical theatre is very similar to the Goan tiatr, which also combines song and dance with drama to raise awareness about social issues. But, while the tiatr has been going strong for over a century, the East Indian Catholics haven't exploited the medium the same way.
Alphi D'Souza, chief spokesperson for the community, says, "Khanchanvarch Naach is possibly the first time we're tackling an issue that's affecting the community. Our plays are usually Biblical and we tend to perform for our parishes, most often during a feast. They're also done on a much smaller scale as compared to a tiatr, which is a large production."
ON: April 20, 7.30 pm
AT: St Andrew's Auditorium, Bandra (W).
ENTRY: Rs 250 and Rs 500
East Indian flavours
Sign up for an East Indian-themed dinner organised by Foodfook in collaboration with The Bagel Shop, to be held on April 20 at 7.30 pm. Here, you can tuck into a carnivorous feast centred around the community's special culinary ingredient, the bottle masala.
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