Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Let’s Dance to the Rhythm (orig. Nachom-ia Kumpasar) [2015]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
Official Website

Mumbai Mirror (A. Khan) review
Navhind Times (F. Noronha) review
Times of India (N. Britto) review

Round Table: India (J.K. Fernandes) review

Goa Streets [J. Jose] review (O. Rebelo) review
O Heraldo (P. D'Costa) review (G. Sattarkar) review

Telegraph: India Interview w. Lorna Cordeiro

Let’s Dance to the Rhythm (orig. Nachom-ia Kumpasar) [2015] (directed and screenplay co-written by Bardroy Barretto along with Mridul Toolsidass) played recently at the 2015 (6th Annual) Chicago South Asian Film Festival.  The film plays-out in the largely Goan populated Jazz scene of Bombay, India of the 1950s-60s.  A lot of Americans could be asking themselves, "What the...?"

From the early 1500s through to 1961 (hence pretty much during the entire course of the European colonial era), Goa was a small Hong Kong / Macao-like, Portuguese administered, trading enclave on the west (Arabian Sea) coast of India.  This history has given Goa, now territorially India's smallest state, a cultural distinctiveness, not unlike that of New Orleans (a former French possession) in the United States or Gibraltar, Singapore / Hong Kong (all former British strategic possessions / trading enclaves).  

In my 20s, I came to learn a fair amount about Goa while going to grad school at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and then specifically during my time of involvement at the USC Catholic Center (run at the time by the Servite Friars, who I later joined) because many/most Goans, though Indian were Catholic / often with Portuguese surnames (as a result of the region having been a Portuguese administered trading enclave, colony, for over 400 years) and there was a surprising number of young Goans both going to USC at the time and/or living in the Los Angeles area.  As a bright-eyed USC / USC Catholic Center attending 20-something year old, I had found Goa (and the Indian but Catholic Goans) fascinating -- the body of the famous Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier is at the Basilica do Bom Jesus in Goa -- and had a fair amount of Goan friends at the time.  So ... when I came across this film about Goa's jazz musicians of the 1950s-60s I "simply had to" see it ;-)

The film here is built around an "impossible romance" between a mid-30/40 something Goan-born Jazz trumpeter named Lawrence 'Lawry' Vaz (loosely based on the actual Goa-born Jazz trumpeter Chris Perry [wikip] and played in the film by Vijay Maurya) and an initially 17/18 y.o. Goa-born and initially wide-eyed / smiling singer named Dona Pereira (inspired by the actual 1960s era Goan superstar star Lorna Cordeiro [wikip] and played in the film by Palomi Ghosh). 

When Lawry and fellow band-mate nicknamed "Chic Chocolate" (played in the film by Blasco Andrade) discover Dona singing with radiant smile, at, of course, a Goan (Catholic) wedding, they immediately want to sign her up.  But alas, her quite realistically portrayed (remember it was the late 1950s/early 1960s) / quite conservative Catholic parents (played by Felizardo Goes and Meenaschi Martins) didn't want her to just quit school / run-off with a couple of, okay Goan-born but now city-slicker musicians "promising [her] the world."  So bright-eyed, enthusiastic and still "just wanted to sing" Dona had to find a way, to get away ... and (or course) she does. 

The rest of the story follows ... and is accentuated by a sound track of 20 actual (Konkani language) hits of Chris Perry / Lorna Cordeiro of the time.  As a result, many Indian reviewers (cited above) have affectionately called the film an Indian / Goan Mamma Mia! [2008]

But there is an edge to the film:  The movie notes that many of the Goan musicians of Bombay's Jazz scene of the 1950s-60s were instrumental in making the Bollywood film industry as vibrant as it is today, and yet, they were often unsung, credited in the films with Indian pseudonyms because their Goan names were deemed "too western" at the time.

Alas, one does understand ... India at the time was trying to put aside its colonial past / forge a new indigenous identity.  Still honesty thank God for places like Goa, Hong Kong and New Orleans all places where cultures _did mix_ and clearly made things that were vibrant and new. 

A great (and fun) film!

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