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HindustanTimes Sat,30 Aug 2014

Baga Beach: a tale of child sex, hatred for migrants

Gautaman Bhaskaran, Hindustantimes.com  Panaji (Goa), November 27, 2013
First Published: 12:10 IST(27/11/2013) | Last Updated: 12:32 IST(27/11/2013)

Goa is synonymous with sun and surf, but above all a people whose 450-year Portuguese ancestry has given them a colour of fun and freedom. 

But all this was fine till Goa became a haven for drugs and paedophilia. However, Goa's aversion for migrant workforce has largely escaped media scanner. While hatred for migrants does exist elsewhere in the country as well, but people are not aware that this is the attitude of people in Goa.

This is precisely what Konkani director Laxmikant Shetgaonkar attempts to tell us in his latest movie, Baga Beach, screened as part of the Indian Panorama at the ongoing 44th edition of the International Film Festival of India here.

Shetgaonkar, who shot to fame with his earlier The Man Beyond the Bridge (in Konkani), gives a completely different look to Baga Beach. While The Man Beyond the Bridge was an intense and restrained study of loneliness, focussing on the life of a guard in a remote forest, Baga Beach appears almost like a celebration.

The opening shots with the hand-held camera (for much of the movie, this form has been adopted) emerge like a carnival on the beach. There are bikini-clad women, migrant bead-sellers, masseurs and, of course, pot-smoking men.

However, the film that runs along the lives of several people, soon takes a serious undertone as it grapples with two problems facing Goa today -- hostility towards migrant labour and paedophilia.

Beneath these is that evil called monetary greed. A Goan family would rather have a well-paying German house guest than listen to saner counsel, which warns them that their little boy is being sexually molested by their lodger.

The lure of money also pushes a migrant labourer to hire his young nephew as a sex worker. Then there is a young and attractive bead-seller, who falls in love with a French tourist hoping that he would marry her and take her back to Paris.

It is her ticket to a better life, her escape from the beach where she is abused by tourists and harassed by the police. Finally, we have a Kannadiga man who is trying hard to become a lifeguard, often humiliated by the local Goans because he is an outsider.

During a chat, Shetgaonkar says that issues like paedophilia and migrant workers have assumed frightening proportions in the past decade. "I have been living in Goa, on the coast, and have seen have a massive growth in tourism has led to the intensification of evils like paedophilia and the hatred for outsiders".

Not just these, Goa has also become notorious for drug abuse and murders for gain. "I wanted to show through my movie the kind of strain that such socio-economic changes have been exerting on the common man", the helmer avers.

Baga Beach does capture the dichotomy of Goa, attracted as it is, on the one hand, by the money that tourism fetches, and saddened and traumatised, on the other hand, by runaway tourism.

Shetgaonkar says that he researched for nearly two years before he made his film - speaking to tourists, shack-owners, migrant workers and the locals themselves. And Baga Beach presents a multi-layered narrative with each character portraying a particular aspect.

We have a young Goan, who is frustrated when he finds that his peaceful land invaded by labourers from neighbouring Andhra and Karnataka, and he drowns his frustration in alcohol. The bead-seller is also angry and unhappy because she cannot better her life. The two abused boys -- coming from different social strata and regions -- seem to bear the brunt of lopsided tourism.  

Things have come to such a pass, adds Shetgaonkar, that many Goans, disillusioned with this state of affairs and disappointed with the state's vanishing peace and tranquillity, have begun to seek fresh pastures in other countries. "These men and women want to escape from Goa".  And soon, we would have a Goa where there would fewer Goans, Shetgaonkar sounds almost prophetic.
 
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering IFFI)

 

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