Tiatr is a type of musical theatre popular in the state of Goa on the west coast of India as well as in Mumbai and with expatriate communities in the Middle East, London and other cities where Konkani speakers have a considerable presence. The dramas are performed mainly in the Roman Konkani dialects and include music, dancing and singing. Tiatr performers are called tiatrists.
The word tiatr comes from the Portuguese word for theatre, teatro. Earlier variations were Theatro, Thiatro and Tiatro.
Tiatr today revolves around social, religious and political themes. It is considered to be a mirror of Goan culture. The drama consists of 6 or 7 acts called pordhe . The acts are interspersed by songs which need not be directly linked to the content or the issues of the main drama. There are 2 or 3 songs between each of the acts.
Tiatrist have always demonstrated a very high degree of social awareness. Most of the themes of tiatr are concerned with social problems confronting the people.
The Tiatr is an instance where mass support plays a crucial role. It is one of those arts which despite centuries of Portuguese suppression and post-liberation neglect from the state governments, has not just survived but also thrived and reinvented itself in many ways.
The tiatr as a dramatic form has been traditionally dominated and patronised by Christian community, but over the years several young Hindu artists have been performing in the tiatr, which are also seen by people from the Hindu community.The lone Muslim so far has been mimicry artist Sheikh Amir.
Songs integral to the plays are known as 'Kants'.Other songs, called kantaram are generally either comedic or based on topical, political and controversial issues that are interspersed through the performance. These musical interludes are independent of the main theme of the play. The songs are often satirical and unsparing of the politics and politicians of Goa. The music is provided by a live band including keyboard, trumpet, saxophone, bass guitar and drums.
Besides the regular commercial shows, tiatrs are held as part of the celebrations of nearly every church and chapel feast in the State.
The Goa Kala Academy organises a state level Tiatr competition every year while the Tiatr Academy organises a Popular Tiatr competition for dramas which have exceeded 25 performances .
Tiatr songs and performances are recorded and sold on CD and DVD in Goan and Middle Eastern markets.
Although efforts have been made to preserve the art form as a tradition of Goa, there have been calls for greater recognition of Mumbai based tiatrists.
There is another version of the Tiatr called the Khell Tiatr, whose performance is restricted to the festivals of Carnival, Intruz and Easter. It differs from the Konkani Tiatr in another respect, that is that its songs are integrated with the main drama and do not deviate in content from it.
Prior to the emergence of tiatr, entertainment in Konkani was mainly through zagors and khells. Both of them had their distinct style. While the zagor was more lyrical, the khell had dialogues and while the former was more popular in Bardez, the latter was firmly entrenched in Salcete.
Costancio Lucasinho Caridade Ribeiro, more popularly known as Lucasinho Ribeiro, who was from Assagao was seeking employment in Bombay. Passionate about the performing arts, he was highly impressed with the stylised Italian operas performed there. He took up a job for an Italian opera troupe which was touring Indian cities at the time, staging an opera called 'Italian Boy'. When the troupe left India, Lucazinho Ribeiro bought the costumes used in the play with the intention of staging a Konkani play on the style of the Italian Opera. His collaborators in the effort were Caetaninho Fernandes of Taleigao and João Agostinho Fernandes of Borda, Margao.
On Easter Sunday, 17 April 1892 the first tiatr performance ever, Italian Bhurgo, adapted from the Italian play, was staged at the New Alfred Theatre, Bombay.This day is celebrated as Tiatr Dis (Tiatr Day). Hence, the Goan art form of tiatr was the product of the meeting of Goan culture and the opera of Italy, which, incidentally is the birthplace of the opera, and the tiatr was born in Bombay. Since there were many different scenes in this tiatr and as it required different stage sets, they thought of dropping the curtain and introducing songs and dances in front of the curtain. This 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.
The first original tiatr script was written and directed by João Agostinho Fernandes, entitled Belle de Cavel or Sundori Cavelchi in 1895 in Bombay and for all his consistent devotion and encouragement over fifty years, he was conferred the title Pai Tiatrist (Father Tiatrist).
Mrs. Regina Fernandes, wife of the playwright João Agostinho Fernandes, became the first female tiatr actor in "Bhattkara" on 22 November 1904. Divorce, a tiatr written and directed by Airistides Dias was the first konkani tiatr to complete 100 performances on 5 October 1980.
However, as time passed the standard of Zagor as well as Khell deteriorated in quality with the introduction of elements of vulgarity. Educated people stopped patronizing the Zagor as well as the Khell. While tiatr was making its presence felt, its original form – the zagors and the khells – were dying a slow death and the zagor finally stopped being performed while the khells continued.
But in 1956 the khell underwent a dramatic change. Given its state at that time, Antonio Moraes thought it fit to take the khell from the street performance to a stage performance. Helped by his friend and colleague Antonio Marian, the khell was performed on a stage for the first time with a backdrop and other paraphernalia associated with theatre. The first Khell Tiatr 'Sandlolo Put' written and directed by Antonio Moraes was staged on the third day of Carnival of March 1956. However, this form became very popular only in the 1970s when Rosario Rodrigues coined the term khell tiatr and came up with extremely successful shows. Thus, the ground-based plays known as Khells evolved onto the stage and further into 'Non-stop dramas' but have now generally dropped this label and are generally referred to as Tiatrs.
Tiatr contributed to keeping the Konkani language alive during Portuguese colonial rule, when Konkani was suppressed. Tiatrists played a major role in the struggle to make Konkani the officials language of Goa.
In 2007, the Government of Goa started the Tiatr Academy of Goa [ TAG ] to facilitate the development of Tiatr. In 2008 legislation was approved granting 15 lakh rupees to the newly formed Tiatr Academy of Goa.1
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