Bangalore Film Society

(April 12, 2006)

There are two factors on the Shemaroo CD cover that may be misleading:- 1.The close up of a grim looking Naseerudin Shah 2.The fact that it is "A Shyam Benegal Film"

The venerable Shah has but a little yet significant cameo as the narrator of the movie. And if you're expecting a typical Shyam Benegal human drama mired in neo-realism then you're in for quite a surprize.

The movie commences with Ruiz Periera (Shah)returning to Goa after almost two decades. He remarks that while his memory is fresh as ever, he can't help be surprized at how time seems to have touched the Goa of his youth. As he enters into the now derelict Souza-Soares estate, a sense of nostalgia is awakened within him and his quirky narration takes us back to a turbulent era of the Goan Liberation.

Patriarch Ernesto Souza-Soares is on his funeral bed while his daughter Sylvia (Anita Kanwal) and her ill-fitting denture sporting husband Lucio(K.K. Raina) are embaressed about the fact that the grand lady of the house, matriarch Donna Maria prefers to listen to Portuguese songs at full volume instead of participating in the mourning. Maria somehow cannot come to terms with the death of her husband and prefers to pretend as if he were alive.

Sylvia has other problems on her mind. Her pretty daughter Ana is to be engaged to Erasmo (Lucky Ali), son of a wealthy family settled in Lisbon. With her father's death, the engagement has to be postponed until the period of mourning is over. Ana meanwhile has resevered her affection for Leon (Dileep Tahil), the nationalist freedom fighter who has escaped from a Lisbon prison and unknown to most, is in hiding in the mansion cellar. Her other daughter, Aurora (Soni Razdan) is in love with a drunk mama's boy, Francis.

Meanwhile, a young Ruiz (Nikhil Bhagat) has lost his heart to Ana but seems to lust after Ernesto's illegitimate daughter and house-maid, Mila Grenia (Neena Gupta) who also doubles up as a medium for Donna Maria who tries to invoke her departed husband's spirit but ends up inevitably with spirits of those Nationalist souls who have been wronged by the Portuguese-supporting Souza-Soares family.

A surreal, absurd Goan soap opera is what Benegal seems to have concocted. A dash of black humor absent in his other works seems to pervade through the movie either during the bizzare spirit-evoking sessions or when Lucio's dentures keep popping out.

But Benegal has bigger ambitions. His restless vision rises above the soap opera equations of the script. He questions the importance of culture and history. He questions national identity. He questions nostalgia and the nature of memories.

The movie moves at a typically languid Benegal pace and there are times when the movie can be trying on one's patience. And also the tone of the movie can be somewhat wavering which at times can be very distracting.

But the movie's greatest achievement is it's definitive Goan-ness. It is as Goan as Cashew Feni and Remo Fernandes. Benegal has his hand firmly on the pulse of Goa. Unlike the hippy-cool and the Ya-bugga-what-man-drunken-Jhonny-in-straw-hat versions of Goa that has become the norm of Goa in cinema, 'Trikal' delves deep and embeds itself in the culture and consciousness that is Goa.

While it may be a few tiny notches below that of classics such as 'Nishaant', 'Maandi', 'Manthan' and 'Ankur'.. 'Trikal' is an unique, unusual movie in the repetoire of an usually solemn-faced genius and deserves to be recognized.