Culture

Miransha Naik’s debut film, Juze, shines a light on Goa's dark corners

Trouble in paradise

Miransha Naik dropped out of college in his first year. He was convinced that another two years of studying commerce would be an utter waste of time. So, he traded education for quick money, working at a restaurant, and soon opened his own shack on Benaulim Beach. For a boy from a small village called Borimol, you’d say he had done well already.

But then Naik had his second epiphany. He had grown up watching and loving films like Masoom (1983) and Saudagar (1991), and The Godfather (1972) on video cassettes, and having made some money at 25, he decided he wanted to work in cinema. “It was a dream. But I knew it was a fantasy for so many others as well.” The pragmatic dreamer, instead of packing his bags for Mumbai, attended a three-month film-writing course in Delhi, and later, signed up for a two-year film-making course in Mumbai.

miransha

Miransha Naik

A decade since, Juze, Naik’s feature-length debut, has travelled to Hong Kong and Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic). It also found critical acclaim at 2017’s Mumbai Film Festival, and was hailed as “a solid debut” by Hollywood Reporter.

As often with a first film, Naik draws from a story he saw unfold around him as a child. The titular Juze is a local overlord who exploits poor migrant workers. The abuse, both physical and sexual, is seen through the eyes of a teenager, Santosh. It’s a sinister Goa, one just a little way inland from its pretty beaches, yet far removed from the advertised cliché of its idyllic, susegad way of life.

“Most of the things you see actually happened,” says Naik. When the film first screened at IFFI (International Film Festival of India, Goa) in 2017, the shock value was evident. “The locals refuse to talk about this dark side of Goa. A couple from North Goa came up to me and told me these stories are not true.”

It’s not hard to see why Naik set his film in the ’90s. Even if it isn’t exactly autobiographical, Santosh is the age Naik would have been then — and you see it through the lens of his seething anger, and the shared desperation to get away. It also had to be made in Konkani, says Naik. “In Konkani, we always swear. We say ‘motherf**ker’ in love, and in hate.” That proved critical. Juze was hailed as a ray of hope for Konkani cinema.

03

A still from Juze 

For a dark sociopolitical film, and an even darker coming-of-age story, Juze still conveys Naik’s love for his home state. The film has that in common with his life. He still lives in Goa; still runs the shack. And he wants to make more films on Goa. The next one is about inter-caste marriages. One doubts there will be pretty beaches in this one either.