Growing up in Goa in the ’70s, Bardroy Barretto would tune into the radio every afternoon to listen to Konkani songs. These were composed by musicians such as Frank Fernand, Alfred Rose, Chic Chocolate — established names in Mumbai’s music scene, performing at jazz bars, nightclubs and for Bollywood greats such as OP Nayyar, SD Burman and Laxmikant-Pyarelal.
At 17, Barretto moved to Mumbai and worked his way up to become an editor and director in the advertising world. However, the love story of two musicians stayed with him — a trumpeter and composer, Chris Perry “discovered” Lorna Cordeiro and took the singer under his wing. Together, they rose to great fame, revolutionising Konkani music through jazz. Perry was already married and their break-up eventually also ended their careers.
This story has been captured by Barretto in his debut feature, the Konkani musical Nachom-ia Kumpasar (Dance to the Rhythm). Set in Goa and Mumbai of the ’60s, it bagged National Awards for Best Production Design and Best Konkani Film along with a special mention for the leading lady Palomi Ghosh. “I wanted to make a film based on Konkani music and their flawed love story emerged as the perfect means to talk about the contribution of Goan musicians,” says Barretto.
To tell their story, Barretto took an unusual route by compiling a playlist of Cordeiro and Perry’s songs in the form of a story. “There were songs with inherent moods and emotions — of flirting, love, heartbreak and anger. I selected and arranged 20 and the scenes were fitted in,” explains the director who has co-written the film with Mridul Toolsidas.
He spent a year producing the music with the help of Ronnie Monsorratte, one of the seven sons of the famous musician Peter Monsorratte. Once the rights to these tracks had been purchased “to tell their love story through their own songs”, Ronnie re-recorded them with live arrangement.
Barretto spent a decade researching the subject and also interviewed the late Anthony Gonsalves, Kersi Lord and Frank Fernand. The film, a crowd-funded project, set in Dhobi Talao, was shot entirely in Panjim. Raina brought alive the ’60s with borrowed old instruments, furniture, and even the altar for the shoot.
Barretto’s friends and family in Goa have ensured that the film is running houseful for four months since its release in December last year. Instead of releasing the film in theatres, the makers have rented projector-equipped auditoriums where they screen it on weekends. The tickets have been customised, which are printed and sold by a special team of near-and-dear-ones.
Barretto intends to follow the same strategy for its Mumbai release starting May 24, screening it in neighbourhoods with a strong Goan diaspora, before taking it to the next city. “If I’d gone the usual theatrical route, the film would have been out of business in a week. My priority has been to ensure it is viewed by those it is made for,” says Barretto.