Lucazinho Ribeiro
– The Creator of Tiatr

Tomazinho Cardozo.

It is surprising to learn that the Goan Tiatr took birth in neighboring Bombay, almost 119 years back i.e. in 1892. A young man called Lucazinho Ribeiro hailing from Sokolwaddo, Assagao in Bardez Taluka can be called the innovator of the Tiatr because he along with Joao Agostinho Fernandes and others staged the first Tiatr performance on the occasion of Easter on 17th April, 1892. The name of the first Tiatr staged was “Italian Bhurgo”. This Tiatr was written and directed by Lucazinho Ribeiro hence he can be called the creator of the unique form of Konkani drama called Tiatr.

There is no documentation at all which gives a clear picture of the staging of the first Tiatr in 1892. It is only in 1943, on the occasion of Golden Jubilee of the Tiatr that Joao Agostinho Fernandes, popularly known as Father of Tiatr, wrote an article, which was published in the issue of ‘Ave Maria’, a weekly in Konkani in Roman script, dated 28th November, 1943. In the beginning of his article Joao Agostinho Fernandes says, “ As I have taken the responsibility to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Konkani Tiatr, I feel it is my duty to make all Goans in general and tiatr lovers in particular known who is the first Goan to write and stage the first Tiatr.” In his brief article Mr. Fernandes describes how Lucazinho Ribeiro got a job in an Italian Opera Company and how he wrote the first tiatr ‘Italian Bhurgo’. He also in this letter makes a mention of one Caitaninho who also assisted Mr. Rebeiro besides him to stage the First Tiatr in 1892. In the last paragraph of his letter Joao Agostinho Fernandes says “Undoubtedly this credit goes to late Mr. Lucazinho Ribeiro on the Tiatr stage. I bow my head to Mr. Ribeiro, who was my guide and teacher and because of his guidance I still continue to present Tiatrs of good values to the Tiatr lovers”.

This article is the only source, which provides information about the innovation of the Tiatr and the staging of the first Tiatr. The information given in this article is authentic because the letter was written by a person who was directly involved in staging the first Tiatr “Italian Bhurgo” in 1892.

Why did such a dramatic form come into existence? It was because the standard of the then existing dramatic forms ‘Zagor’ and ‘Khell’ or ‘Fell’ deteriorated due to introduction of elements of vulgarity to create fun and cheap entertainment for the audience. This decline of quality in staging Zagor and Khell prevented many people from witnessing these forms of entertainment. Educated people stopped patronizing the Zagor as well as the Khell. Goans were in need of a good and qualitative entertainment.

Why did such a dramatic form come into existence? It was because the standard of the then existing dramatic forms ‘Zagor’ and ‘Khell’ or ‘Fell’ deteriorated due to introduction of elements of vulgarity to create fun and cheap entertainment for the audience. This decline of quality in staging Zagor and Khell prevented many people from witnessing these forms of entertainment. Educated people stopped patronizing the Zagor as well as the Khell. Goans were in need of a good and qualitative entertainment.

During the centenary year of the Tiatr in the year 1992, I visited Assagao in order to find out the roots of Lucazinho Ribeiro. I met Lucazinho Ribeiro’s grand daughter-in-law Lucy who showed me the house of Lucazinho Ribeiro, which was all in ruins. Only the balcony existed without the roof over it. One had to climb 12-14 steps to enter the collapsed balcony. She informed me that her father-in-law used to tell her that Lucazinho Ribeiro used to stage small cultural programmes of Konkani songs and skits by converting the balcony of his house into a temporary stage. He used to make use of bed-sheets as curtains.

Young Lucazinho Ribeiro migrated to Bombay, as most of the Goans did, in search of a job. During that time Italian dramatic troupes were touring important cities of India such as Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi and Madras to stage Italian Operas. When in India, they used to employ Indians mostly as back stage artistes. Lucazinho Ribeiro, having love for dramatic art, tried his luck to get employment in one of the Italian dramatic troupes. He got a job as a back stage artiste. The troupe was staging the opera called “Italian Boy”. When the troupe completed its assignments and was to leave India, Lucazinho Ribeiro bought the costumes which were used in the play. This act itself shows Ribeiro’s intention of producing a play similar to “Italian Boy”. Accordingly, based on the same story of “Italian Boy” he wrote a “Teatro” in Konkani and called it “Italian Bhurgo”.

As there were many different scenes in this “Teatro” and as it required different stage sets, in order not to waste time, he thought of dropping the curtain and introduced songs and dances in front of the curtain. He felt that it was needed to entertain the audience while the Stage Setting was being done behind the curtain. These songs and dances did not have any relevance to the theme of the play “Italian Bhurgo” The experiment done by Lucazinho Ribeiro clicked. About 300 people who witnessed the performance liked the new format and congratulated Lucazinho Ribeiro and others for staging such a unique form of entertainment. Thus a new dramatic form called Tiatr was successfully staged at the then existing New Alfred Theatre, in Mumbai on 17th April, 1892. Yes the Goan Tiatr took birth in Bombay thanks to the pioneering efforts of Lucazinho Ribeiro.

Tiatr Academy Goa celebrates the birth anniversary of Lucazinho Ribeiro with a special function on 2nd January, 2010 every year in order to perpetuate the memories of the Creator of Tiatr – Lucasinho Ribeiro.

Joao Agostinho Fernandes
– The Father of Tiatr

Tomazinho Cardozo

Every 14th of December Tiatr Academy Goa observes the Birth Anniversary of late Joao Agostinho Fernandes. Due to his invaluable contribution for the development of Tiatr, lovers of tiatr simply loved him and respectfully called him ‘Pai Tiatrist’. A towering personality on the field of tiatr, he did not only write, directed, acted and produced tiatrs but he saw that his works were preserved for posterity.

Born on 14th December, 1871 in Margao, Goa, Shri. Fernandes was an important member of the group led by Lucasinho Ribeiro who wrote, directed and staged the first tiatr “Italian Bhurgo” – an adaptation of an Italian Opera entitled “Italian Boy”- on 17th April, 1892 in Bombay. The credit of staging the first Konkani tiatr definitely goes to Lucasinho Ribeiro, a son of Assagao village in Bardez, Goa. This was acknowledged by Joao Agostinho Fernandes himself when during the golden jubilee celebrations of Tiatr in 1942 – 43, he said, “Undoubtedly the credit goes to late Mr. Lucazinho Ribeiro on the Tiatr stage. I bow my head to Mr. Ribeiro, who was my guide and teacher and because of his guidance I still continue to present Tiatrs of good values to the Tiatr lovers”. Yet tiatr loving people considered Joao Agostinho Fernandes as the Father of Tiatr only because of Fernandes’s commitment and dedication to Tiatr, its song and music.

When one goes through the life journey of late Joao Agostinho Fernandes, particularly his contribution to tiatr and its song and music, one finds that he was a visionary who believed in originality and perfection. When the first tiatr “Italian Bhurgo” was staged with great success it gave an additional boost to many others to write and stage more tiatrs. But most of the scripts that emerged were adaptations of English, French or Portuguese dramas. Joao Agostinho’s first four dramas too were adaptations of European dramas. But Joao Agostinho saw that there were numerous issues prevailing in the Goan society and he thought of highlighting it through tiatrs. He scripted his first original play “Cavelchi Sundori” (Belle of Cavel) and staged it in 1895. He set the trend for writing original scripts. Subsequently he went on highlighting social issues through his plays. He scripted 27 tiatrs some of which are, “Dotichem Kestanv” – exposing the evils of dowry, “Bhattkara” – highlighting the relationship between the landlord and tenant during the Portuguese era, “Kunnbi Jaki” – describing the lives of weaker sections of the society, “Vavraddi” – exposing the hidden differences between haves and haves-not, between the poor and rich, “Panzarincho Bhattkar” – exposing the evils of caste system, etc. In fact Joao Agostinho Fernandes exposed these issues through his tiatrs over hundred years back but solutions to these issues are not found even today. Same problems exist and continue to disturb our social atmosphere even today.

Joao Agostinho Fernandes was a dramatist with a difference. He was a perfectionist. Hence the performances of his tiatrs always maintained a certain standard. They say that he used to rehearse for almost two months so that the performance on the stage was flawless. As a true director he used to take care of not only the acting and singing but also of the stage setting, light effects and music too. There were no advanced light equipments the way we have them today, yet he tried his best to make his plays more meaningful and effective with the help of lights equipments available at that time. Hence the standard of his tiatrs was always appreciated by the people.

Joao Agostinho wished that tiatr – as a part of cultural heritage of Goans – should be preserved for future generations. It is for this reason that he published some of his tiatrs in book form. He must have not made any profit in this venture but he published books of his tiatrs, as it happens in all other languages, so that tiatr was preserved for future generation. Sad to state that the present day writers of tiatrs rarely publish the scripts of their plays in book form – thereby negating the trend set by Father of Tiatr over hundred years back.

Women could not act on the stage at that time. Acting on the stage was a social taboo prevailing practically in every community at that time. Male actors used to act in female roles. Joao Agostinho wanted to showcase reality so that the performance is perfect in all aspects. For him males performing female roles were a draw back. Hence he encouraged his wife, Regina Fernandes to act on the tiatr stage. A woman stepped the tiatr stage for the first time when Regina Fernandes did the lead role in the tiatr “Bhattkara” written and directed by Joao Agostinho Fernandes in 1904. Yet another trend of breaking the social taboo was set by Joao Agostinho Fernandes. Tiatr became glamorous and attractive with the introduction of female artistes on the tiatr stage.

Joao Agostinho Fernandes was a great lyricist as well as a good singer too. His songs – lyrics as well as music – were always original. His songs besides love also stressed on social issues prevailing at that time. It was a great honour to Joao Agostinho when HMV recording company requested him to record his songs. He was the first Goan Konkani singer to records his songs on HMV records in 1910. Yet another trend set by him in order to preserve Konkani ‘kantar’ for future generations.

There is no one on the tiatr stage, even today, parallel to Joao Agostinho Fernandes who has the vision of developing, introducing innovations, promoting and preserving tiatr, its song and music the way Joao Agostinho did over hundred years back. Will the present day tiatr artistes attempt to take tiatr to higher heights by moving in the footsteps of Joao Agostinho Fernandes – the Father of Tiatr?

Regina Fernandes
. . . The First Lady of Tiatr

Tomazinho Cardozo

Like on any other stage, be it in our country or abroad, women joined the drama stage much later due to social compulsions. A woman acting on a stage was looked down upon and was considered of low character. It took hundreds of years, even in developed countries, for women to act on the drama stage.

Going through the history of various theatres in the world one finds Isabelle Andreini stepping on the drama stage somewhere in 1582 for the dramatic troupe ‘Commedia Dell’Arte in France. Isabella was a fine actress and could display her talents on the drama stage only because of the encouragement and support of her husband Francisco Andreini who also was acting in the same drama.

In our country women started acting on stage somewhere in 1789, when Mrs Bristow, an English women, built her own theatre in Calcutta. The females namely Mrs. Deacle, Madam Dhermailvilla, and others who stepped on the stage that time were all from Britain. The first Indian woman to act on the stage who made way for other Indian women to enter the drama stage appears to be Binodine Dasi.

On the Konkani tiatr stage it was Regina Fernandes who acted first, way back in 1904. In fact the tiatr ‘Bhattkara’, in which she first appeared, was staged on 22nd November 1904 at the Gaiety Theatre in Bombay. Regina also could act on the tiatr stage because she was the wife of Joao Agostinho Fernandes who wrote and directed the tiatr ‘Bhattkara’. She could take this bold step and come out of the social taboo almost over hundred years back only because of the support of her husband. By doing so, Regina Fernandes created history for being the first lady of the Konkani Tiatr stage.

Regina Fernandes was born on 16th November, 1880 in the village Raia, in Salcete. She was married to Joao Agostinho Fernandes whom the tiatr loving people later called the father of tiatr. Regina ventured on the tiatr stage at the tender age of 23 and acted the lead female role in the tiatr ‘Bhatkara’. Her superb performance in that tiatr caught the eyes of the tiatr audience. It was an experience that the audience had experienced for the first time since the birth of Konkani Tiatr in 1892. Regina’s presence on the stage brought reality in acting in tiatr and added glamour to the tiatr stage. Unfortunately the first lady of tiatr stage could not live long and her pioneering and exemplary efforts in acting on tiatr stage ended in 1908. The promising star of Konkani stage stopped shining at the very tender age of just 28 years. She expired on 20th December 1908.

Although Regina Fernandes had a very short stint on the Konkani tiatr stage – just four years – she created interest about acting in tiatrs in many young girls of that time. This was evident from the fact that many women artistes joined the tiatr stage inspite of the fear of being socially ostracized. Some of the examples of women artiste who adored the Konkani stage after Regina Fernandes were Ermelinda, Carlota, Mohana, Cecilia and others. The credit of attracting women artistes towards Konkani tiatr stage and making acting in tiatrs real and glamorous definitely goes to Regina Fernandes. Presently we have a number of talented female artistes who are doing yeoman service to the cause of Tiatr.

Prior to the entry of women on the stage and even after, when there were not enough female artistes available, like all other stages, males had to perform the roles of females. The male artistes who excelled in female roles on tiatr stage were Andrew, Vincent de Saligao, Lucas Joaquim Caetano Coutinho, who was popularly known as Miss Julie, and host of others. These were the people who helped in keeping the Tiatr stage not only alive but vibrant in the absence of female artistes.

Tiatr Academy Goa has decided to celebrate the birth anniversary of Regina Fernandes every year. The celebrations kicked off from on 16th November at Ravindra Bhavan, Margao. TAG organized a work shop in the morning on the role of women in art & culture. In the afternoon a formal function was organized which was followed by the specially produced programme – Ladies Musical Show – in which only female artistes of tiatr stage participated. Women artistes of tiatrs stage and lovers of Konkani tiatr attended in large number. Participating in these functions in large number definitely amounts to pay sincere tribute to Regina Fernandes – the first lady of Konkani Tiatr.

A. R. Souza Ferrao
– A Versatile Tiatr Artiste

John Claro Fernandes

Augusto Remedios Souza Ferrao was born on June 1, 1909 at Ambora – Raia, Salcete, Goa to Mr. Joaquim Mariano Souza and Mrs. Maria Cecilia Ferrao. Young Augusto Remedios studied in the Parochial School in Margao. From there he joined the Government Primary school in Portuguese. After completion of ‘Segundo Grau’ in Portuguese, he joined the Catholic Educational Institute to study English. Besides dramatic art, he was a good artist. In order to develop this talent he studied at J. J. School of Art in Bombay. Although he was acting on tiatr stage during his school days, he never neglected his studies. In the Parochial School he learnt music and violin. He had a good voice and flair for acting right from childhood.

Mr. Basilio Furtado from Chinchinim introduced Souza-Ferrao to the Tiatr stage. He acted as ‘Princess Diana’, – a female character – in his drama ‘Naddponn Amigachem’ staged at Clube Harmonia Hall at Borda. Although Souza-Ferrao was totally new to the stage he acted wonderfully well. The songs that he sang were also big hits. He went on becoming popular. Because there were too many Souzas in the tiatr community, he preferred to have a different identity for himself. Therefore, he combined his father’s and mothers’ surnames and made Souza-Ferrao as his surname. Then he styled his name as A. R. Souza – Ferrao, by which he became all famous!

He has acted with all the past famous Konkani playwrights and directors such as M/s Joao Agostinho Fernandes, Saib Rocha, J. P. Souzalin, Jack Aquila, Rogaciano Ernest Rebello, John Lazarus D’Souza, etc.

Once a famous Portuguese actor named Silva Sanches came to perform in Bombay at Royal Opera House. The Portuguese Consul selected M/s Luis Borges and Souza-Ferrao, the only two Goan artistes, to act in the programme. The show was attended by a selected audience. Of all, the two Goan performers proved outstanding and of course, Souza-Ferrao received more applause.

Souza – Ferrao was the first Konkani artiste to broadcast the first Konkani musical programme on All India Radio, Bombay on November, 11, 1936. Mr. Souza-Ferrao produced the programme for which the music was provided by Mr. Manuel Alphonso. He was an excellent composer of lyrics as well as music and equally excellent singer too. Many of his hit songs were recorded by HMV and other recording companies.

In 1954 and 1955, Souza-Ferrao was the only Konkani artiste to be invited to perform in Delhi on the occasion of the Republic Day. ‘The Goan Folk Song and Dance Party’ led by Souza-Ferrao was adjudged as the best. The then President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, praised Mr. Souza Ferrao for his excellent performance. The Central Government produced a documentary – ‘The Folk Dances of India’- in which Souza-Ferrao’s folk dances of Goa were included. Besides the Folk Dances Troupe, Souza Ferrao had his own dramatic Troupe called Jolly Brothers Darmatic Club through which he encouraged youngsters to enter the Tiatr stage.

Souza-Ferrao scripted and directed many plays out of which ‘Almam Vetat Sorgar’, ‘Pech-Pech’, ‘Kazari Okol’, ‘Ghatkeponn’, ‘Zotkaxi’, ‘Santan Bavdi’, ‘Govio Put’ and ‘Paichem Farikponn’ became hit. Besides, he also helped many playwrights to stage their shows. He also directed many of Mr. Joao Agostinho Fernandes’ plays. Souza Ferrao believed that good singing, dancing and acting are essential elements that go into making of a good artist.

Souza-Ferrao was a multifaceted personality. He could fit in any role. His acting ability was proved by the different roles he played on the Tiatr stage. He had acted as a girl, as an old man, as an old woman, as a Hindu, as a Manglorean, as a landlord, as a mad man, as a drunkard, etc. His forte was Goan Kunnbi roles.

From his childhood, Souza-Ferrao wished to act in films. In the late 40s when Mr. A L Jerry Braganza announced his first film Mogacho Aunddo his hopes brightened, but was disappointed because Mr. Braganza did not include any commercial Tiatr artiste in his film.

However he fulfilled his silver dream when he acted in the film “Amchem Noxib” which was a big hit. Since then he acted prominent and varied roles in almost all the major Konkani films such as ‘Nirmonn’, ‘Sukhachem Soponn’, ‘Mhuji Ghorkarn’, ‘Kortubancho Sounsar’, ‘Jivit Amchem Oxem’, ‘Bhuierantlo Munis’, ‘Boglantt’, etc.

Besides his stage and screen life, he was a gem of a person in his day-to-day life. He always cared for others particularly the poor and the downtrodden. He was one artiste who was ever ready to stage his shows in aid of causes that serve the society. Once, during Portuguese times, Governor Cabral’s wife wanted to raise funds to help T.B. patients. Dr. Froilano de Melo and Dr.Victor Dias, in order to swell this fund asked Souza-Ferrao to help and he, with his open heart, organized numerous shows in different villages in aid of the T. B. patients of Goa.

Souza-Ferrao expired on March 6, 1978 at St. George Hospital, Bombay. He was 69. He was the greatest artiste, the Konkani stage has so far produced. On gramophone records today, we hear his sweet voice, on the silver screen he comes alive and on the stage we will remember him as an actor who had a vision for Goan Tiatr, song and music.

Prem Kumar

By Anil Kumar

‘Prem Kumar’ is a famous name on the Konkani tiatr stage. He has earned a lot of fame on the Konkani tiatr stage in this name. He is a very good actor, writer, director and lyricist. He is one among the best of tiatr artistes of his age. He acted in many tiatrs besides writing and staging 54 of his own tiatrs. He also gained experience in the field of Hindi cinema. During that time, he performed in many Hindi films too.

The real name of Prem Kumar was Pedro Xavier D’Costa. He was born on 6th September 1929 in Pieambhatt ward, in the place Guirdolim, Chandor which is a village in the Salcete Taluka in Goa.

Prem Kumar was the eldest of the two sons born to Smt.Dainiana Josefa Fizardo and Shri.Xavier D’Costa. His brother’s name was Xavier D’Costa. Prem Kumar and his wife Angelina, gave birth to two sons, Jerry and Cezar who were also seen in Prem Kumar’s tiatrs when they were small children. If anyone would ask Prem Kumar about his name, he would say that during that time the name ‘Kumar’ was very popular in Hindi films. Every good actor from Hindi film industry would be a ‘Kumar’ and that is why he liked the name ‘Kumar’. As the meaning of the word ‘Kumar’ is ‘Prince’ he adopted the stage name as ‘Prem Kumar’. The meaning of the word ‘Prem’ is love and thus ‘Prem Kumar’ would mean the ‘Prince of Love’. It feels like there is truth in what he said because everytime during the beginning of his tiatrs, he used to make an announcement which was as follows – the thorns of enemity are the branches of destruction. If you do good, you will bear good. Do not fly with wings of pride. If you try to destroy others then you yourself may be destroyed. Spread love. In the kingdom of goodness, the doors lie open. Sacred Heart of Jesus, fill us with light. Son of God, you who are born in humility, fill us with your gifts. We, your servants at your feet; Prem Kumar & Troupe presents…

At the beginning of every Tiatr itself, the tiatr audiences would hear these words from the mouth of Prem Kumar and simultaneously the curtain would open. His tiatrs would be based on family, social, religious topics. The dialogues of his tiatrs would be of high literary standards and the comedy in his tiatrs had its own unique style. The ‘cantos’ in the tiatrs were very melodious and heart-touching.

He wrote a tiatr ‘Jawan’ on patriotism as well as a tiatr ‘Pisso’ based on a single character. All his tiatrs were staged with special stage setting. He used to carry this ‘setting’ to every city and every village in which he staged his tiatrs. This was his speciality. Also, the credit for displaying new techniques of Light Effects on the tiatr stage goes to Prem Kumar.

Many a times while showing the flashback of the story of the tiatr, he used to show a pre-recorded video clipping of that particular situation on a white curtain on the tiatr stage and would win thunderous applause from the audience. The make up artistes used by him in his tiatrs were professional make-up artistes from the field of drama/cinema for example Shri. Vichare, his son Sharad Vichare and the like. Also the live music band used by him in his tiatrs was that of famous musicians from the field of professional cinema. He also paid attention to the costumes worn by different characters of his tiatrs.

The speciality of his direction was that each character of his tiatrs should wear the costumes as the situation in the story demands. He used to train his artistes on how to make use of voice projection while delivering their dialogues. Only due to such works, he can be called as a good writer, good director, and a good artiste.

He produced his own audio cassette, aired many of his plays on radio as well as on television. He also contributed to Konkani films. In the Konkani film ‘Boglant’ from M.Das of Ambika Films, the screen play, dialogues and song lyrics were written by him. He also acted the main role in the film along with actress Rita Rose.

He staged his tiatrs in India as well as Gulf countries. The tiatrs written and directed by him are as follows:- (1) Mhozo Put (2) Ghatki Vhoni (3) No Vacancy (4) Guneanv Konnacho (5) Mhozo Novro (6) Tufan (7) Maka Loztai? (8) Soirik Keli (9) Vadev (10) Kazar Zaina (11) Putak Kazar Kelo (12) Afrikar (13) Darunn (14) Nimnni Chittt (15) Angonn (16) Ghor Mathiechem (17) Dukh (18) Konnank Mhunno Mai (19) Pai (20) Amchi Bhas (21) Upkar (22) Ugddas (23) Rekad (24) Kakut (25) Mortikar (25) Vavraddi (27) Gorib (28) Peleachea Vostuchi Axea Korunaye (29) Dorji (30) Dubav(31) Jawan (32) Pisso (33) Maria Magdalena (34) Jivit ek Sopon (35) Fulam ani Kantte (36) Vantte (37) Rinn (38) Upkar Naslolo (39) Fottkiro (40) Abdul Narayann D’Souza (41) Noxib (42) Kaido (43) Ordhi Bhakri (44) Viswas (45) Noxibacho Khell (46) Hanv Kitem Korum (47) Govai (48) Khotto Poiso (49) Noxibacho Divo Palovlo (50) Abru (51) Tum Modem Poddonakai (52) Tuje Dis Bhorle (53) Doyallponn (54) No Time (55) Lojechim Khotam.

In 78 years of his life, Prem Kumar wrote 55 tiatrs. He used to preserve the manuscripts of his tiatrs by binding them as books. This was another speciality of this tiatr stalwart.

Prem Kumar did his Primary Schooling in Mumbai. During those times due to the Portuguese rule in Goa, many Goans went to Mumbai to pursue their education. Prem Kumar then lived in Mumbai due to his job. With his advancing age, Prem Kumar suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure and on 12th October 2007 at 8:30 pm in Bhattia Hospital at Grant Road Mumbai he breathed his last. However, he remains as one of the immortal pages in the history of tiatr. His journey of life has been from 6th September 1929 to 12th October 2007. He was buried at the Mahalaxmi Cemetery on 13th October 2007 at 4:30 pm as per Catholic rites.