A Goan living in Pune, Isidore Dantes was passionate about Konkani films. In the ’90s, when he realised that the legacy of the regional cinema, which boasted of music by some of India’s finest artistes, was vanishing, he decided to do something to preserve it. Alongside his job as a banker, Dantes began researching the roots of Konkani cinema. After his retirement, he put it all together as a book, titled Konkani Cholchitram, which details some of the most popular Konkani films, including the first-ever production in 1950, Mogacho Aunddo (Love’s Crazy). Supplemented by stills and trivia, the Konkani language book was launched in 2010.
On the occasion, a family member of Mogacho Aunddo’s producer Al Jerry Braganza gifted Dantes one reel of the film, albeit in a poor condition, as a keepsake. Aware of its importance, Dantes approached his friend, adman and Konkani filmmaker Bardroy Barretto, who put him in touch with Shivendra Singh Dungarpur. The reel has since been restored. “It was an honour to receive a reel of the first Konkani film ever produced. I first took it to the National Film Archive of India but was told they cannot do anything with it. Then Bardroy helped me out,” says Dantes.
Dungarpur, however, says the condition in which he received the reel was so poor that the process of working on it should be called “reconstruction” as opposed to “restoration”. “It came to me all brittle, nearly turning to powder and wrapped in a newspaper,” recalls Dungarpur, whose Film Heritage Foundation is working to restore Indian films.
While Indian cinema completed its centenary in 2013, Konkani cinema is all of 65. And in this period, it has produced a mere 45 films. Mogacho Aunddo is the only film to be made in Portuguese-ruled India. The second Konkani film, Amchen Noxib (Our Luck), was made 13 years later, in 1963, after Goa’s independence. The reason, Dungarpur explains, is that at some point in the ’50s, the Portuguese government had imposed a ban on local cinema, which lasted till 1961.
The restored portion has a run time of three minutes. Dantes is now working towards obtaining the remaining reels of the film, which was playing in Rivoli (Matunga), Liberty (Fort) and Star (Mazgaon) in Mumbai, when it released in 1950, apart from Goa. “All our firsts are lost, be it Tamil, Telugu, Marathi and so on. I hope we can gain access to the remaining reels too, so that this part of Indian cinema’s heritage isn’t forever lost,” says Dungarpur.