De-Konkanizing Konkani

Osmitay is an ornamental film. Its central narrative is built around several narratives that are interwoven with histories, struggles and pains of the people who speak Konkani. It scores high on its performance, music, singing and scenic display of the rich culture of the Konkani speakers. Such a film cannot be totally rational as it evokes deep emotions and can only be said to be manifesting Nietzschean intensities. Although the film can pass off as a charlatanry of the right wing, maybe we have to see it as creating logic and poetics of its own. But unfortunately, it is sitting on the branch it intends to cut. It is seductive because it is dealing with Konkani that is close to the heart of its every speaker. Hence, maybe it is wise to conduct a semiotic analysis of the said movie to bring some things that hide behind the curtain of Konkani and our belonging to it.

Semiotics studies signs. Anything is a sign. Thus, a rose can be a sign as well as symbol of love. Signs are deeply embedded in an universe of meaning , culture or lifeworld. Any movie is an ensemble of several signs. All these signs assemble into signification system. There are several assemblages of sign that produce several orders of meanings. Movies are dynamic and hence their sign systems or regimes of signs are dynamic. The movie under our study has several orders of regimes of signs. One regime of signs is the celebration of wedding. It has several rituals, customs, symbols, dress codes, food rituals, music etc. All these are ordered by a regime of signs. Thus, these orders of signs are not innocent. The movie seems to order the signs of the wedding that it depicts by a sign regime that belong to the upper caste.

The movie that we study is rooted into a nomadic sign regime where the narrative, symbols, characters, plots, sub-plots etc., are in a travelling mode but each of them territorialize under the common motif of Konkani. But the problem with this beautiful piece of art is that it appears to kill all metaphors. There is no room for something to be like something. There is no place for analogy. All it claims to portray is real. Every story sequence, every visual or sound sequence or every sign sequence appears to touch the real. This abolition of metaphor that helps build a distance between the audience and the movie produces emotive affects in the audience.

The order of sequence of signs in the movie seems to indicate that Konkani is de-vested , de-territorialized from Goa and other places and peoples of its flowering and is territorialized as the language of the upper caste specially of the Gaud Saraswats brahmins. The order of signs manifest that Konkani had come from the mythical Sarasvati civilization suffering a disaster and after its sojourns in Goa abruptly under colonial pressures left for the south to Mangalore and Cochin. The journey of Konkani culture that is depicted , through these orders of signs, therefore, appears to know nothing of other Konkani people like the Goans, and the rest of the Konkan, who are the remanent of the Konkani peoples who left Goa.

Even when it showed traces of what remains of the Konkani culture in Goa, it displayed the mando and the deknni that developed among the Catholics of the upper caste in Curtorim, Raia, Loutolim ( Mando) and Deknni (Hanv Saiba Poldodi Veta in Margao). This shows that other regimes of signs like the Kunnbi dance and several other subaltern people’s Konkani culture remained distant from the dance of Konkani in the movie. This means Konkani is organized by the order of the upper caste in the movie. It is visible in the politics of inclusion and exclusion which forgets Konkani that developed during colonial times ( The first printed book, as well as the first grammar of Konkani) as well as the contributions of Goans and other sons and daughters of Konkani mai/ avoi who stayed back after ‘the grand Konkani arrival to Mangalore and Cochin and other places in the south’. Perhaps, we may say that the movie makers followed the style of a pottering artisan who left the mud that does not fit his mould. This is why I say that movie is cutting the tree of the branch on which it is sitting. In other words, it is killing mother Konkani while it is trying to give it life.

Dekonkanizing of Konkani is clear because the movie seems to underline that Konkani belongs only to the upper Caste and that too to the GSB community, when the nomenclature, GSB belongs to the twentieth century. Besides, exclusion of the regimes of signs of other Konkani People like those of the subalternsclike the Kunnbhi community, the movie seems to display that the tribal Goddess Santeri Mai is worshiped by the upper caste ( GSBs) who suffer for its worship under the cruel Inquisition and are forced out of Goa. Here there is a double snatching/ grabbing of the order of signs: one belonging to the ST community (Santer) and the other one is of the dark period of sufferings mainly of the newly Christianized Catholics.

Both these orders of signs do not naturally have anything to do with the upper caste Hindu community. Unfortunately, these orders of signs are organized in the movie to invent a shared victimhood of the upper caste Hindus who leave Goa to go down south. Besides this, the movie singularizes the several migrations of the Goans to the South only in an attempt to fortify that Konkani mai exclusively belongs to the upper caste. This is certainly a de-konkanizing of Konkani. This is the reason we have understand how in the name of promotion of Konkani, the movie ends up de-konkanising it. It cuts the limbs and feet of mother Konkani and leaves it lame, separated from its other sons and daughters. The main plot that shows the return of the sacrificed blood (under Inquisition) in the coming of hero to Goa makes this delimbing of Konkani very clear.

The inquisition had nothing to do with the Konkani language perse as it mainly dealt with people who were converted to Christianity and its scope included a vast people even people of foreign origin and not merely neo-Christians from Goa. Hindus were accidental to its operation and only a few of them were put on trail that too those who obstructed their neo-converted brethren from practicing their new faith. In fact, the upper caste Hindus had the privilege of conducting business activities in the ground floor of the house of Inquisition. Think about this regime of signs where the actors of ‘cruel Inquisition’ and the upper caste members trade in the same building. This means the upper caste Hindus cannot be victims of Inquisition in any way. Yet the said movie is maliciously constructing or inventing a shared victimhood of the upper caste while victimizing Konkani and its people.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao