Anurag Kashyap’s ambitious and expensive Bombay Velvet, a Hindi period drama starring Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma and set in a 1960s world spilling over with jazz singers, street toughs, tabloid editors and crooked politicians, is some months away from a release. In the meanwhile, Bardroy Barretto’s more modest but no less ambitious passion project Nachom-ia Kumpasar, which is set in the same era and focuses on the star-crossed romance between a jazz trumpeter and a singer, is being shown at special screenings across Goa.
Loosely inspired by the real-life affair between composer and songwriter Chris Perry and singer Lorna Cordeiro and showcasing the contributions of Goans to the music scene in Mumbai in the 1960s and ‘70s, Nachom-ia Kumpasar (Let’s Dance to the Rhythm) stars Mumbai actors Vijay Maurya and Palomi Ghosh in the lead roles. Naturally, it has several songs – 20 of them, based on Perry’s original recordings and featuring Cordeiro’s powerful voice.
Barretto had originally planned a biopic on the pair, but he abandoned it after Cordeiro refused to cooperate. (Perry died in 2002.) Barretto shifted the focus towards the jazz-inflected Konkani music, which remains highly popular and made stars out of its main performers. “At some point, you realise that you have to give back to where you come from,” said Barretto, who grew up in Goa.
The movie emerged from memories of the music that wafted over Barretto’s formative years in Goa between 1978 and 1985. “There was no television at home in those days, and we grew up listening to the songs of Chris and Lorna,” said Barretto, who now lives in Mumbai and runs an advertising production company called Brown Skins. “We also grew up with rumours about their relationship. There were too many versions and variations of the story, so I can say that my film is based on hearsay. The songs dictate the storyline. I felt that the musicians should get their due, which is why the music is the hero of the film.”
The songs are featured in a chronological order and keep tune with the ebbs and flows of the relationship. “There were songs about flirting, then there was love, and then there were song about their love gone wrong,” the 45-year-old director said. Followers of Konkani pop will be familiar with the names associated with the production. Goan singer Cielda Pereira sings Cordeiro’s songs in the movie. The music is by Jackson Pereira and Ronnie Monserrate. Barretto also consulted Anthony Gonsalves, the musician and arranger who worked closely with Hindi film music composer Pyarelal Sharma.
Nachom-ia Kumpasar has been in the making since 2004 and cost Rs 3.5 crore, but that figure doesn’t include the free labour donated by well-wishers. “That was why we were able to make the film on this scale,” Barretto said. The movie has 96 producers, comprising mostly friends and family. One of the contributors is lead actor Vijay Maurya, whom Barretto cast because of his uncanny resemblance to Perry.
“It was tough to get under the skin of a Goan musician,” said Maurya, who has appeared in such films as Black Friday (he plays Dawood Ibrahim) and Dubai Return. “I met the musicians, looked at old photographs, and also watched old Hindi films, where the Goan musicians are usually in the background playing the right beat and in tune.”
Maurya, who can speak Marathi fluently, learnt to speak Konkani for Nachom-ia Kumpasar. He also got tips in diction and enunciation from Konkani tiatr legends Prince Jacob (who also appears in the movie) and John D’Silva. Maurya said he would ensure that the good folks in the Hindi movie business watched Nachom-ia Kumpasar, and not only because it features an important phase of jazz music production in Mumbai.
“The film is so soulful, and all of us were closely involved with it,” he said. “Money making and marketing are not everything – this film will remain in people’s hearts, especially from Goa.”
Nachom-ia Kumpasar is getting an unconventional, staggered release. Rather than distributing it in cinemas, Barretto has been holding screenings for small groups of people at various venues. One of the first places the movie was shown was Doha in the United Arab Emirates, where the Goan Welfare Association paid for the screening. Barretto has also shown Nachom-ia Kumpasar in Margao and Panaji, and he will travel with the movie in this fashion for the next several months. “I have taken ten years on this film, and I don’t want it to be irrelevant after two weeks,” Barretto said. “If you release the film in a conventional way, that is how it will land up.”