From floppy hats to bongo drums, the ‘Bollywood Goan’ added a distinct flavour to Hindi films. Now they are fast fading from view
Before Bombay became Mumbai, in a day when the city was gentler and more cosmopolitan, the stereotypical Goan character was its indispensable feature. Predictably, s/he was as essential a part of Bollywood then. Now, of course, Bandra is seen as the home of expats and stars. It is no longer village-like, no longer home to a community that filled its rambling bungalows and lanes with gossip, rambunctious parties and music.
Goans once were a symbol, representatives of the westernised but golden-hearted working middle class of the city. In Hindi movies, they brought with them fashionable crisply cut western knock offs, jazz and other forms of more cutting edge music. From floppy hats to bongo drums, the ‘Bollywood Goan’ added a distinct flavour to Hindi films. As they now recede from the city and from movies too, we look back at some of our favourite filmy Goans.
Tony Braganza and Nancy from Baton Baton Mein
Tony (Amol Palekar) and Nancy (Tina Munim) were the epitome of working class cool in the 1970s. She, of the sharp dresses, and he, of the neat French beard, met each other on the 9:10 am local train. They joined hordes of eager office goers at the Churchgate station, and with them they disappeared in offices filled with reams of papers and typewriters. At 5 pm, they then emerged to take the train back. Given the glamour built around the office job, it was natural that the major impediment in their love story was the fact that Nancy out-earned Tony.
Saajan Fernandes from The Lunchbox
If Tony outlived Nancy, he would have probably turned into Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) of The Lunchbox. Saajan is a lonely anachronism in the new Bandra and a remnant of doughty but fading working class values. He is frightened by how he has begun to smell like his grandfather and abandons the relationship he had stumbled in to. In the end, he can’t escape being an obvious symbol of a Bandra that is now fast fading from view.
Robert from Amar Akbar Anthony
Jeevan, as the larger than life don Robert in Amar Akbar Anthony, was probably the most colourful Catholic Goan in Bollywood. His best competition was the film’s hero, Anthony Gonzalves (Amitabh Bachchan), who emerged from an Easter egg and bandaged his own mirror image. As for Robert, it is hard not to like a bow-tied and ruffle-jacketed don who employs a beefcake called Zebisko as a bouncer-cum-boyfriend for his long lost daughter Jenny. The frilly and floppy hat wearing Jenny falls for Gonzalves instead. Poor Zebisko and Robert are left making that proverbial Bollywood chase.
Uncle John in Boot Polish
The avuncular David Abraham came to personify the golden-hearted Goan in Hindi movies post this 1954 classic. A bootlegger, he takes in two orphaned children under his wing when they are left to beg by their wicked aunt. After he gets arrested, the children get into all kinds of trouble before finally getting adopted into a wealthy home. David, a Bene Israeli Jew, later played match maker in Baton Baton Mein and several other genial Goan uncle roles.
Mrs D’Sa in Anari