Wednesday 07 Jun 2023

Dubai had a LAWrence for Tiatr

Lawrence Fernandes sowed the seed for the staging of tiatrs in Dubai which kept flourishing and before bidding adieu to Dubai, Lawrence disclosed to other show promoters the tricks of the trade and secrets to organising a successful show

Michael Gracias | AUGUST 12, 2022, 11:04 PM IST
Dubai had a LAWrence for Tiatr

Some years ago when I visited Dubai to act in Prince Jacob’s tiatr, Padri Monis Nhoi?, staged at Al Nasr, during the interval the organisers of our tiatr, Gabby de Chandor and Olavo Viegas felicitated a senior citizen. During the felicitation, they disclosed that the personality felicitated could rightly be called the father of Konkani Tiatr in Dubai: Lawrence Fernandes!

Lawrence had his initial primary education in the Marathi medium in a private village ‘pattshala’ at Sancoale, that had his father, Sebastiao Fernandes, as a benefactor. Being the only catholic lad among the Hindu students, his ‘mastor’ Govind Anant Pai was very fond of him. The fondness was indeed mutual and the young Lawrence chose to spend a lot of time with his teacher which he found very rewarding in terms of knowledge gained. Lawrence soon found himself acting in Marathi Plays staged in school and at the annual village stage too. ‘Bhakt Prahlad’ was the first nattak in which he acted. None in the audience knew he was a catholic speaking Marathi so fluently.

His mother Maria Francisca Cortez, was a good singer and so the culture of singing matured at home. In 1954 as a young lad he accompanied his mother to watch the tiatr Mavoddecho Gulam written by the legendary Minguel Rod. This tiatr created an inerasable print on his mind.

He got his first tiatr break in Odruxtt Zatinchem staged by Manuel Dourado and presented under the banner of St Anthony’s Boys of Arvale-Cortalim. Thereafter he directed a tiatr Devachem Dennem which was scripted by Manuel Silveira (Paklo). The tiatrist in him developed to the core and he went ahead writing and presenting two tiatrs Pai Ho Gunianv Tuzo and Ghatkeaponnachem Farikponn.

Completing his ‘segundo grau’ education in Portuguese, Lawrence continued his scholastic life learning English at Cortalim, from where he then studied in St Andrews, Vasco; Accounts being his favourite subject. After initially working in the accounts department in Goa, greener pastures and the promise of a better life took him to Dubai where he soon began working as the Chief Accountant for a Norweigian Company in the early seventies.

He had all that he dreamt for, was married and blessed with children too. He had the friendship of influential people. People who mattered could vouch for the integrity and gentlemanliness of this young expatriate from India. He had created for himself a place of pride, but the hunger for the Goan life with the ‘divertiment’ that tiatr offered created a void in him. He talked to his compatriots who had settled in Dubai earlier. He was told that only two tiatrs of Fr Freddy J Da Costa; Khata Pita Dev Dita and Utth Goemkara were staged there and after that, there was total gloom on the Konkani entertainment arena.

Towards the end of the decade of seventies, he came in touch with M K Dos who was struggling to complete his Konkani film Girestkai due to scarcity of funds. Lawrence arranged to complete the film getting exclusive rights for marketing the film in the Gulf, which he did and screened the film in aid of the Goa Cancer Society (now Manipal Hospital). The film was released in Gulf theatres in all seven Emirates. 

Lawrence was introduced to Bab Peter who was then working in Bahrain. The friendship between them grew and Lawrence motivated Bab Peter to stage a tiatr in Bahrain, the performance of which he promised to sponsor in Dubai. Bab Peter didn’t hesitate and soon his tiatr Sang Zababdar Konn was staged in Dubai.

From here, there was no looking back. The success of staging the tiatr was soul-stirring, heartwarming. The response from the tiatr lovers and aficionados from the Goan as well as Manglorean communities was immense. Lawrence then ventured to get in Dubai the tiatrs that were the talk of the town in Goa. Ekuch Rosto by M Boyer, Tuje Dolle by C Alvares, Rogtacho Xirap by Chrismeena, Dev Podvedar by Anil Kumar, Ti mhoji Maim written and Directed by Patrick Dourado and Produced by Tony Dias, Tujem Nanv Vhodd Zanv by Jose Rod, Hem Kazar koslem a musical show by Comedian Phillip, Anink Ek Mhoino by Rosario Rodrigues, Vatt by John D’Silva, Pedo, Panvdde, Pidda and other tiatrs of Prince Jacob starting with letter P, Sukam fulam Koxttam Kantte by comedian Domnic and other tiatrs. 

The seed that Lawrence sowed for the staging of tiatrs in Dubai, kept flourishing and before bidding adieu to Dubai, Lawrence disclosed to other show promoters the tricks of the trade and secrets to organising a successful show in Dubai.

Thanks to the law of staging tiatrs that Lawrence framed, tiatrs are performed in Dubai till date with this writer too being privileged to act in the tiatr in which the artistes were flown from Goa and hosted in a starred hotel of Dubai!

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