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Feeling speci(AL) on his day

25 Apr 2015 12:06am IST
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25 Apr 2015 12:06am IST
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As a reel of Konkani’s first full-length film ‘Mogacho Aunddo’ gets restored in Italy, its producer and director gets a special cover on the 65th anniversary of the film’s release. Walter Menezes pays tribute to AL Jerry Braganza who gave the Konkani world its first film.

Since the news that ‘one hardened reel’ of the first full-length Konkani movie ‘Mogacho Aunddo’, produced and directed by AL Jerry Braganza, has been found and is presently being ‘treated’ at the L’Immagine Ritrovata, a restoration laboratory in Bologna, Italy, there has been renewed interest and excitement in the film. AL Jerry was also the lead actor in the film which was released in 1950.

Author of Konknni Cholchitram, Isidore Dantas, an avid collector of Konkani film memorabilia, writes about ‘Mogacho Aunddo’ saying, “The film was screened at Dashrat Cinema, Mapusa on 24th April 1950 and simultaneously in Mumbai at Rivoli and Star theatres in Matunga and Mazagaon respectively.”

Incidentally, it was Dantas who handed over the 300ft of film to Nachom-ia Kumpasar director Bardroy Barretto who then handed it over to Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, film-maker, archivist and founder director of the Film Heritage Foundation based in Mumbai for restoration. 

In an article, Barretto says that “Dantas is positive that he will find the remaining reels of Mogacho Aunddo somewhere in Africa (for like Goa, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Príncipe and Equatorial Guinea, too were Portuguese colonies) or in Macau (an erstwhile Portuguese colony).” 

Willy Goes, writer and lecturer at Goa College of Art is also optimistic that other ‘lost’ reels of ‘Mogacho Aunddo’ will be found and we will get to see ‘Goa as it existed in the fifties’. 

Bosco Dias, a resident of Motivaddo, Majorda recalls seeing the film with his family members at Olympia Hall close to present-day Cine Lata, Margao when he was very young. “In fact, I had never seen a film before so I was all excited. I still remember the hero, I think in the film his name was Abel, furiously writing love letters to his beloved. And this other scene where he fools around with the fisherwomen with baskets on their heads.”

Even before news of the ‘precious reel’ could appear in the media, Dalgado Konknni Akademi had already embarked on a project to release a ‘special cover’ to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the first Konkani film and honour the Father of the Konkani Cinema in his hometown, Mapusa.

Preparing the spadework to present the proposal before the Office of the Postmaster General, Goa Region, Goes made available a copy of ‘50 Years of Konkani Cinema’, a well-documented and informative magazine edited by Andrew Greno Viegas, a hard-core Konkani film enthusiast. 

Baptized as Antonio Lawrence Jerry Braganza, he later tweaked his name to AL Jerry Braganza, probably to make it more appealing to his would-be fans. Born in Mapusa on August 28, 1920, he had his early education at Liceu Nacional Central de Affonso de Albuquerque and Sacred Heart of Jesus High School, Parra. Right from his childhood AL Jerry showed interest in singing and acting and was good at ‘yodelling’ too. In 1940 he went to Bombay and joined the ‘Bombay Tutorial College’. For sometime he worked at IEME Workshop, Colaba and then joined the Indian News Parade (now The Films Division) as telephone operator. He later moved to Geeta Pictures & Studios and thereafter became the Chief Controller of Production for Ramesh Vyas and Vishwa Bharati Films.

Later, under the banner of ETICA (Exchange Talkies of India, China & Africa) and based on Dioguinho D’Mello’s novella ‘Mogachi Vodd’, AL Jerry began to work on what would become, in the days to come, a milestone in the history of Konkani cinema. The ‘muhurat’ ceremony was held on July 31, 1949 in the presence of Fr Macario Pereira and ‘shooting’ was in Goa in place such as Campal, the lighthouse at Aguada, river Mandovi, Calangute beach and the area in Altinho around the Lyceum building. Nine months later, the first Konkani film ‘Mogacho Aunddo’ was ready for release.

Many years later and before the launch of his second film ‘Sukhachem Sopon’, in a broadcast on All India Radio on June 21, 1966, AL Jerry said, “People looked at us in great surprise as if we were aliens, people from another world. Yes, they also cannot be blamed for this because it was none of their fault since they had never before seen a film shooting in progress.”

‘Sukhachem Sopon’ was released 17 years after ‘Mogacho Aunddo’ on September 9, 1967. AL Jerry also produced two other films – a short documentary ‘Nossa Senhora do Fatima’ depicting the reception and procession of Our Lady of Fatima in Goa which was shown along with ‘Mogacho Aunddo’ and a lengthy film on the Exposition of St Francis Xavier in 1952. 

A Times of India report dated September 7, 1950 informs us that AL Jerry had secured the sole rights in India ‘to film the forthcoming Exposition’ and that he ‘plans to make a lengthy documentary depicting the sacerdotal ceremonies in connection with the unique religious event, as well as the picturesque scenes and historic sights of Goa in four versions Hindi, English, Portuguese and Konkani.’

AL Jerry, who died on January 8, 1990, had also planned a biopic on ‘Custoba the Great’ and Robin Vaz was roped in to play the role of Custoba. But the film was later abandoned.

On Friday, the 65th anniversary of the screening of ‘Mogacho Aunddo’, a ‘special cover’ was released by Dalgado Konknni Akademi to commemorate this day. AL Jerry Braganza, whose ancestral house is not very far from Mapusa’s Hanuman Theatre, the venue of the function, was surely feeling ‘special’ in the heavens above.

Walter Menezes has two Konkani books to his credit: Koddu Sonvsar ani her kotha (1987), a collection of short stories and  Zoit ani her kovita (2008), a collection of poems. 

He has also co-produced Zoit-achim Fulam, a Konknni audio album consisting of 8 poems from the poetry book set to music by Elick Vaz



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