After a successful run at film festivals in Hong Kong and Europe, a Konkani movie about the dark underbelly of India’s sunshine state has been selected for the Mumbai Film Festival (October 12-18).

Miransha Naik’s debut feature film’s Juze will be screened in the Indian competition section at the festival. An India-France-Netherlands co-production, Juze follows migrant workers in a Goan village who face routine violence and abuse by their employer and landlord. The protagonist is 16-year-old Santosh, who tries to overcome his fear and stand up to oppression and exploitation. The Konkani word juze is a synonym for slum lord.

The movie was first noticed in 2015, when it was selected for mentoring and promotion during Film Bazaar, the annual filmmaking lab that is organised by the National Film Development Corporation in Goa in November. “We had made this film in 2015 but then it got stuck because of post-production funds,” Naik said. “Then we sent it to the NFDC’s film lab, where we met our mentors and our French and Dutch producers.”

Juze had its international premiere at the Hong Kong International Film Festival in April, and was also picked up for the Karlovy Vary film festival in July.

Naik wrote Juze while he was a screenwriting student at Whistling Woods International in Mumbai. “Initially I didn’t want to direct [it] so I pitched the story for various production houses. But, none replied,” Naik said. “So then, I thought of directing.”

Naik has previously made the short films Shezari and Ram. Juze, shot entirely in Goa, is set in a village named Boribmol with a large migrant population.

Naik said the story was inspired by incidents in his village in the Quepem taluka where he grew up. The movie features Rushikesh Naik as Santosh and Sudesh Bhise as the landlord. Most of the cast were newcomers or theatre actors, who had to be trained in the craft. “I needed subtle acting from my actors. So, I did lot of workshops with them,” Naik said. “But all of them were quick to learn especially the children.”

Naik said that his movie is for a global audience but is nervous about how it will be received in Goa.

Miransha Naik.

Naik never aspired to become a filmmaker – it was his desire to tell the many stories he saw around him that made him one. “I dropped out of college and started my beach restaurant in Benaulim,” he said. “During the monsoon break, I got hooked to watching world cinema and it really broadened my vision. It inspired me to do a screenwriting course in Delhi. As my work got appreciated, I thought of doing a two-year course at Whistling Woods where I met like-minded people and faculty who really motivated me.”

Movies like Juze mark a step forward for Goa’s Konkani film industry, which has started growing only in recent years. Though the coastal state hosts Film Bazaar and the International Film Festival of India every year, the Konkani film industry is not nearly as prolific as other states.

Bardroy Barretto’s National Film Award winning Nachom-ia Kumpasar (2014), based on the Goan musicians Chris Perry and Lorna Cordeiro, raised the bar for Konkani cinema, Naik said. “With Nachom-ia Kumpasar now Goans are taking efforts to go and watch a Konkani film,” he said. “Hopefully, it will inspire to make more quality Konkani cinema.”