Thursday, July 16, 2009

Shankar Bhandari (1928-87) crafted programmes for All India Radio

GOAN MUSIC - By Valmiki Faleiro

Shankar Bhandari (1928-87), of the landed gentry of Cumbarjua, was a rare personage.
A creative writer with unambiguous opinions, great wit and genuine Goan values, he
crafted programmes for All India Radio. I longed to be in his presence, even if only for a few moments, when, as a casual artiste in my college days, I often went for ‘YuvaVani’ talk recordings – no, I can only croak, not sing! – at AIR’s Panjim studios.

Pearls flowed from his fertile mind! One reason, perhaps, I was more impressed was
that he hailed from the same village as that of my maternal grandfather – an exotic little “Republic” of my childhood images.

Shankar Bhandari was a man of cool courage, and conviction. And one who defied the
adage, ‘When the wine is in, the wit is out.’ True (not Dutch) courage it would take when, some years after 1961, he penned a verse on India’s ‘Ganarajya’ (Republic.) In that era, India was the only nation besides the Soviet Union to define “sedition” amongst the gravest offences under the penal law.

‘Ganarajya’ was a parody on India. Goa had been integrated into the Indian Union on
March 27, 1962. Shankar Bhandari daringly asked: “Gonachem Ailam Raj / Khuincho
Gana Konn Zanna?”

The governance of ‘Gana’ has arrived (upon Goa), but who knows this ‘Gana’ or
wherefrom (it comes)? In the name of ‘Gana,’ Andhra and Telangana fight each other.
Maharashtra and Vidarbha tussle over the (waters of) Godavari. Who knows this ‘Gana’?

If you’re still wondering which ‘Gana’ (no, not another song) he was on, think of the
national anthem … “Jana, Gana, Mana.” That was Shankar Bhandari. Like him or
lampoon him. No Goan freedom fighter dared report him “anti-national.”

He could come up with rare ones like “Goenkar: ratche torrad, sokallche honrrad!” Or his riddle, “Why does Bandodkar always face the river Mandovi?” (When CM, mineowner
Bandodkar’s chamber faced the river, after demise, his statue by the old Secretariat also faced the river.) His answer: “To count his barges carrying ore, he doesn’t trust his daughters!”

The ‘Trio Kings,’ Conception-Nelson-Anthony, were notorious for stage songs chopping
Bandodkar’s policies to pieces. They thwarted his moves to woo the Catholic vote bank. Their songs ruffled the CM’s feathers more than Opposition MLAs ever did. When all his offers to rein in the Trio failed, Bandodkar imposed a Tiatr tax!

Tiatrists faced tough days, but none suffered as Kid Boxer did.

Sometime in 1958, Siolim-born Kid Boxer (Caetano Manuel Pereira, 1917-1991) sang an
“anti-India” song in Bombay. Goan freedom fighters there got him jailed. Kid was then
deported to Goa. The Portuguese immediately employed him at the Goa Radio. As an
artiste, he worked with the likes of Jacinto Vaz, Allen Costa and Georgina Jacques.
According to my Candolim friend in Kuwait, Anthony Veronica Fernandes, a walking
encyclopaedia on Konknni songsters, Kid was the highest paid Konknni artiste.

The songs he recorded at Goa Radio were runaway hits, like:

Divo pettounk guineanacher / Uzvadd ieunk chintnacher / Zo kon zanna konnem ghoram
bandleant tim pongeranchea zaddancher.

Suskar soddlet maeyani / Dolle bhortat dukhani / Aiz putancheo maeyom duddu na
zaun, rodtat zorinnim.

The true meaning of his riddlesome lyrics was known only to close friends. Yet, listeners lapped up his songs. The one above was scripted in the wake of a Govt. of India ban on both money transfers and travel by Bombay-Goans to Goa.

After liberation, Kid Boxer was arrested again when singing on stage at Mapusa. The
song that earned official ire went as follows:

Tum bhitor sorlai chukon, mortoloi sukon, dusreacho desh pochona;
Tum nestai fokot valo, ani khatai fokot palo, hem matui hanga sobona;
Tum panpotti khatai, ani poch'chu korun thuktai, lozui kaim dissona…

After things cooled down, Kid returned to Bombay and began stage acting again. During
a Tiatr, as he sang one of his by now famous ‘zupattis’ (tongue-lashings), freedom
fighter Evagrio George in the audience raised a ruckus over Kid’s “anti-national” song. “Audience was with Kid but the law was not,” says Veronica. Kid was arrested yet again, incarcerated at Nasik jail for six months, where he was physically – and mercilessly – tortured. His spirit didn’t break. In jail, Kid wrote another Tiatr, "Somzonnem Zali Chuk." He sang a hit in it, "Sov mhoine Nasik conventan kaddle, torui converter zaunk na." (Despite six months at the Nasik “convent,” I was not converted.)

Kid Boxer was incomparable, especially when delivering melodious ‘zupattis,’ like:
“Nesson dusreachem kapodd, hath paiem kamrun bosleat makodd.” Obviously alluding
to his conviction that Goa was invaded and illegally occupied by India.

Lucky that Kid Boxer was not charged with sedition! (Concludes.)

Pics courtesy: Kid Boxer (Fausto da Costa, ‘Tiatr ani Tiatrist’, Vol-I, The Goan Review publication, 1994), TrioKings Conception-Nelson-Anthony (JoeGoaUK, and Shankar Bhandari (Goa Konkani Academy.) (ENDS)

The Valmiki Faleiro weekly column at:

The above article appeared in the October 5, 2008 edition of the Herald, Goa

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A big e-welcome to you. Tumcam Maie-mogacho ieukar. Enjoy Life - This is not a rehearsal! Konkani uloi, boroi, vach ani samball - sodankal. Hich Goenchi osmitai ani amchem khalxelponn. Goenchi amchi Konkani bhas! Ekvottachem saddon Goenkaranchem. This is Gaspar Almeida from Parra, Bardez, Goa, based in Kuwait and am connected with the website created by Ulysses Menezes, and as Moderator of the famous first of its kind Gulf-Goans e-Newsletter (since 1994) and The Goan Forum and several Goan and Indian associations and forums and e-forums in Goa, India, Kuwait, The Middle East and worldwide.