The Asian Age, November 2009
It’s taken awhile before a film in Konkani could make it to the honour
position of Indian Panorama’s opener at next week’s International Film
Festival of India. Paltadcho Munis ( The Man Beyond The Bridge) has
that distinction this year. The small budget film made by young Goan
filmmaker Laxmikant Shetgaonkar, and produced by NFDC, won critical
acclaim and the International Federation of Film Critics ( FIPRESCI)
prize in the Discovery section at the 34th Toronto Film festival this
For the region’s fledgling cinema culture, this is a important
breakthrough. It was the first Konkani film to be selected to a major
international film festival and to win an international award. “Far
from the sensory overload of India’s big cities, the film explores
smaller but enduring dilemmas, drawing together keen environmental
sensitivities with a nuanced view of village dynamics”, said the
Shetgaonkar, has featured in Panorama before. In 2005, his short film
Seaside Story — a narrative of cross cultural friendship between a
white western woman and a Goan Hindu man — was selected, and picked
up a national award.
Ask Shegaonkar about the Toronto award, his subsequent felicitation
and Rs 25 lakh grant from the Goa government, and he downplays both.
“Awards help you to get a bigger audience and some recognition for a
film. They don’t mean much beyond that. It’s just that mine may be one
of the few from this region to get there, that’s why all the fuss”.
The bustle that followed only embarrasses him, a reminder that in the
relatively fledgling Konkani and Goan film making culture, his
attempts have stood out and assumed a different dimension.
It was the human aspect of writer Mahableshwar Sail’s story that
appealed to Shetgaonkar in the first place. “I liked the heroism of
the central character, who defies village sentiment and societal
mores to connect with and love a mentally challenged woman”. Paltadcho
Munis’ protagonist — a lonely widowed forest guard posted in a
remote jungle, finds himself ostracised for his new found friendship
with the abandoned woman. The suffocating narrow conservatism of a
remote hilly village comes to the fore to judge and condemn two
marginalised people, it never bothered with before.
Intrigued by the story, right from 2004, and interested in translating
to celluloid, Shetgaonkar began his research, living in the western
ghat forest villages to get closer to that reality. Developing the
screenplay took another year, when he approached the NFDC, then
strapped for funds. “I pursued other projects in the interim but never
lost sight of this film”, says he. He took the script to several
workshops, including one set up by the British council. It began
getting noticed then.
Shetgaonkar turned down an offer to make the film in Hindi. “It might
have got a bigger budget and probably a different cast altogether,
definitely more exposure”. He turned it down though. Shetgaonkar has
a different goal, creating a kind of cinema movement in Goa, that may
probably never get to be as ambitious as that in Kerala, but a start
He’s been taking some of his documentaries and short films to rural
schools and villages, and has similar plans for Paltadcho Munis.
Rather than chase another project just yet, Shetgaonkar plans to spend
the next year, taking the film to international festivals and to
theatres in Goa. “I’m a susegad (laid back) Goan. It’s not my ambition
to chase commercial success. If you ask me what I want to be doing
five years from now, I would not be able to tell you anything, except
that cinema for me is life I don’t think creative people can push
themselves to produce anything unless it comes from within”.
In the past, Shetgaonkar has made films on child sexual abuse, and
another in English called “Let’s talk about it”, on a now demolished
red light area.
Does he see himself as a regional film maker? Will he stay with using
Konkani in his films? Not so, he says. “Seaside Story is in Marathi
and English. Goa is liberated enough, and uses several languages. I’ve
made films in English as well, and it works here with some audiences.”
The language a film is shot in must fit the context and mood of the
film to be authentic, that’s his only criteria. He’s not averse to
using Hindi, when it suits the script, or any other language, for that
But that’s a bridge he’ll cross when he comes to it, he reckons. (ends)