Khell Tiatr                                                                                     

The traditional forms of entertainment in Goa were “Zagors” and “khells”. The “Khell tiatr” were very popular forms of drama in South Goa. Mostly held during Carnival and other festive occasions, the “khell tiatr” also known as “zomni khell” was held first in front of the landlords house (Regedor).

Dr. Rafael Fernandes: “One reason that they play at regedor’s house is that they pay respect to Regedor. Secondly there was a censor system on this plays and once the performance was enacted at the Regedor’s place it was taken for granted that it was cleared for public performance and  on a censor system which would say, that it is certified for public viewing.

Khell’s were generally performed during Christmas, Easter but significantly during carnival. Three days of Carnival, I think even now that is the busiest time for troops. They have as many as 40 performances in 3 days.”

The writer of this popular form drama-“khell tiatr” is called the ‘mestri’ while the rest of the artistes are known as ‘khellgaddi’. A small band of musicians playing the drum, trumpet,and clarinet provided the music for the performance. António Moraes from Benaulim transformed the khell by adding more musical instruments, changing costumes according to characters and shifted the performance to the stage.

Earlier, ladies were prohibited from taking part in the “khell tiatr” and men would play the female role. However today, women are a vital part of a “khell tiatr” performance. The khell of the yesteryears has undergone many changes. Then, “khell tiatr” artistes would move from one place to another, stopping whenever people asked them to perform. However, today, the “troupes” travel by vehicles and are mostly hired days before the performance.

Domingo Mascarenhas, fondly remembers the way khell was performed in the old days. 

Domingos Mascarenhas (Khell tiatr performer):I remember an incident. It was in a village called “Sirlim” in Chinchinim, where we were to enact during Easter and we had to play it 3 times. After performing 3 times, we walked all the way to Macazana on foot. Just imagine, the distance we had to walk.”

The songs which are interludes in the play also connected to the story of the khell. To overcome the lack of props and other limitations, music came in handy.A major chunk of the story was told through songs instead of dialogues. The themes of the khells have changed as well. From the earlier ones based on a relationship between the “bhatkar” (landlord) “mundkar” (tenant) relationship, to the recent political developments, khells have come to reflect the popular sentiments of the people. Domingo’s favourite role was enacting members of the Hindu community. The audiences too loved him for these roles.

Domingos Mascarenhas: “In these plays my favourite role was playing a Hindu character. Even the spectators used to say that the way I dressed and spoke, suited the part. Besides that I also like to act as a ‘bhatkar’ (landlord).”

The motive of staging a khell was never to make profits. Many times the troupes used to put on their own money to stage a performance. Profits were not a criteria to stage a khell. It was the sheer love of it.

Dr. Phandurang Phaldesai:In folk traditions there are 3 main categories which we consider: one is folk songs, folk dances and folk theater. ‘Tiatr’ or ‘Khell Tiatr’ is originated from Zagor.”

Dr.Rafael Fernandes: “The documented performace of Khel, goes to 1659 when Khel troups from Salcete were invited to the Bom Jesus Basílica for the inauguration of the sacristy. So 1659 is the documented record available.”

Despite the roaring success of the tiatr’s on the stage, the humble khell tiatr still manages to hold a charm of its own.

People do come with enthusiasm and excitement to watch a khell tiatr just like they did years ago. 

Dr. Rafael Fernandes: “There is deep love for this performance. A lay person of the audience, will only see everything as ‘Tiatr’. He is enamored with the performance and will always be fond of ‘Tiatr’ and therefore they say, as long as ‘Tiatr’ is alive, the Konkani language doesn’t have to worry.”

Go back to Traditional Dances of Goa

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