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Reviving dying tales

Putting together bits and pieces of the tales told by the older generation, the students of Nirakar HS, Mashem, have been trying to bring the art form of Perni Jagor back into the limelight

26th April 2018, 07:02 Hrs

Pradnya Gaonkar Rane

A school teacher is seen giving the students a group assignment to research and present a dying art form of their community. The students belonging to the Perni community then run back home and ask their elders for inputs. An elderly lady called mhatari in the house removes some face masks, costumes from an old wooden box and begins to narrate the tale of the art form ‘Perni Jagor’ which is performed during the temple festivals by the Perni family. When the grandchildren ask her why the tradition is not carried ahead, the grandmother says that there are no artists left to do so. She later urges them to revive the dying art form. The students come together and set up a beautiful play with songs and music based on the inputs from their grandmother.   

This is the crux of the drama about ‘Perni Jagor’ written by Kavindra Phaldesai, senior teacher at SS Angle Higher Secondary, Mashem, Canacona which has been presented by the students of the Nirakar HS, Canacona at places like the Lokotsav at Kala Academy, Lokrang at Goa University and at Keshav Devalaya, Loliem in their efforts to revive this dying art form. The actual Perni Jagor as part of the temple festivities is performed by the Hindu Perni community which involves performances based on the concepts of origin. Mythology plays an important part in many of the performances.

“Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan organises Kala Utsav at New Delhi where they invite schools to take part in various categories like theatre, music, folk art etc. The preliminary rounds include district level, state level and the winners are selected for the final competition at New Delhi. The theme this year was dying folk art forms where we were supposed to research and present a play based on it,” says Kavindra. He chose Perni Jagor as their research topic. However he soon discovered that very little is known about this folk art form which is almost on the verge of extinction. “Other art forms like Sankasuracho kalo have a written script but in case of Perni Jagor there is no written script, only the tales the older generation can share with us. Senior researchers like Pandurang Phaldesai had done a PhD thesis on the topic Perni Jagor and his help was encouraging to get more people to give us information. We had kirtankars like Nishakant Tengse also helped garner more inputs about the art form,” informs Kavindra.  

Another major source of information was the late Vishnu Pagi who used to assist his grandfather in performing Perni Jagor in Poinguinim. Pagi passed away recently. Kavindra also got in touch with a senior generation of Perni Jagor artists who perform the jagor at Poinguinim but observed that this art form is now done for the sake of doing it without any songs or script. Based on all these bits and pieces of information, Phaldesai prepared a script in Konkani and wrote few songs based on the information from the senior members of the Perni community. Kavindra mentions that the original dialogues and the songs might have been in Marathi but his version is in Konkani.  

The masks and the costumes for the play was another major part of the jagor. Urvee Phaldesai, a teacher from Nirakar High School, Mashem took charge of the costume. “The temple committee where this jagor is performed were not willing to share the material due to the faith and other religious beliefs. We managed to get one or two masks from another temple in Phanaskane village but the remaining were handmade masks out of papermache. Costumes were also designed as per the information shared by the community members,” shares Urvee. Teacher Priyanka Gayak  of Nirakar HS directed the drama.  

At the beginning of every show Kavindra requests the support of the audience to provide any kind of information about the Perni Jagor. Wherever the school team has performed till date more information gets added to the play and accordingly the changes are made in the script written by Kavindra. As of now the drama presentation comes to around 45 minutes which involves songs and music.  

In the beginning, the drama was staged by the Higher Secondary students of SS Angle. However, things became a little difficult when these students finished their XII standard and moved out of the school, prompting the team to train a whole new set of actors and musicians. Kavindra then decided to start training students in the high school section itself. “At present there are 36 group members that includes the actors and musicians and also the helpers or assistants from class V who are now well versed with the main characters dialogues and other requirements. So when one set of students pass out, we have another set which is already prepared for the main characters and we have enough space to bring in a new batch as assistants. The process goes on,” says Kavindra.  

As years passed by there were hardly any performers to carry forward the tradition as Perni performers. “The younger generation pursued higher studies and took up jobs. There is hardly any inclination showed towards taking up the cultural folk art form ahead either due to education or career. Elders inform that the Perni Jagor that used to go on for hours during the temple festivities is reduced to just 10-15 minutes. Non-availability of a written script makes the task even more difficult,” says Kavindra. And with Pagi passing away recently, the team is presently without any other source of information on this art form. “ That’s why I would request the audiences or anyone who has any kind of knowledge about the dying art form to kindly share their bit and help us improvise and take it ahead,” urges Kavindra Phaldesai who refuses to give up and is still carrying on with his research to let the Jagor go on.  

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