In conversation with Team Kitaab
“One World, One Faith One Race, One Colour, Just A Different Face” – this is the motto of a man who juggles between three worlds; the world of IT, the world of cinema and the world of poetry. Born and raised in Goa, Tagore Almeida shuttled between Goa and London to emerge with an ideology of a world united in peace. Tagore’s passion is cinema. He has already scripted two commercial films in India and written, produced and directed a handful of short films, some of which have featured in short film festivals across the world, including the Cannes Short Film Festival. A computer science graduate from the UK who has worked in London, Dubai and Singapore, he has just completed writing his first novel, is in the pre-production phase of his next short film ‘The Forgiveness’. In this exclusive, he talks of what makes him tick and what drew him to spoken word as a form of poetry – a style which he has exploited eloquently to question the social trauma faced by many with an impactful poem called “Whose Side?”
You have an interesting name — Tagore Almeida. Was this something you adopted or was it given to you by your parents?
My late father was initially a journalist and has also authored two books in Konkani back home in Goa. He admired Rabindranath Tagore immensely and felt that if he named his son after the great man, his son too would show signs of great literature. Ooops, let’s not go there!
So, you have started moving towards your father’s expectations! You have taken to words. Now you have started putting your poetry in a format called spoken word and have started putting it on you tube. Can you tell us a little more about this form? Most people use visuals with words but you only use words and no photos Why?
A friend of mine back home encouraged me to get on board spoken word late last year. He was frustrated like most of my friends that I wasn’t doing much with my verses and had been spending a lot of my time writing films. So I finally decided to give it a go, just to test the medium. So I shortlisted twelve of my verses and said I was going to focus on those over the next eighteen months.
I did “Between Us” first which was about the bomb blast in Mumbai a long time ago. Sadly that is still happening elsewhere in the world today, but like then and like Mumbai, the human spirit still survives. Religions, politics, borders and beliefs might get broken, but the human soul survives. Always did, always will. The second was ‘Whose Side?’ which questions, I feel, the biggest question of all. That’s been accepted really well. They are both on YouTube.
I stick to words and music only for this as I feel that if I get into visuals, then it becomes a film — a short film — but still a film and then the film maker within will take over the poet which I hope does not happen on this particular journey.
You have written about two hundred verses. Do you plan to put them all into this format?
Oh Gosh no! That would take a decade or more to do given the pace at which I am intending to do this. No as I said about twelve identified for now, then we shall see,
What is the advantage you have as a poet in using spoken over written word?
I am not sure it is an advantage, but given the digital world we live in and sadly that there are more people who watch / listen than read, this is a great way to refresh the verses and tell them differently.
You make films. Is the use of this form influenced by your cinematic success? I Am not sure about the success, but yes it is influenced by my passion for film making. Though I am making a conscious effort to keep the movie making experience from the spoken word project.
One of your shorts had made it to the Cannes. What was it about? What did you want to say as an artist through that film?
Yes, my film A God of Sinners went to the short film corner in Cannes. It is still a very dear to me because I brought into it the fact that the world was still afraid of differences and was a ticking time-bomb as a society in itself. I showed it through the ambience in which I grew up — modern day, urban and yet deep within we are so bare and primal. It is in YouTube, watch it.
Recently, one of your short films was acquired by Large Short Films, one of India’s most prestigious platforms for short form content. Tell us a bit more about that film and what compelled you to make that film?
Yes, it is called Uss Din and stars a very young Raj Kumar Rao when he first came to Mumbai. I produced the film and that started my journey into making short films at a ridiculously extravagant scale. I sold it after eleven years, can you beat that? Thank goodness for the Large Short guys.
So, what was your first love — poetry or cinema?
Oh I do admit, I cheated on poetry, as it was my sole companion for the larger part of my life — through all my heart aches, rebellious moments, through everything, I always wrote verses. Cinema came much later, during my final years in school, but verses continued for a long, long time even after that. For A God of Sinners, I wrote the last song – “Is There A God For A Man Like Me”? Which was amazingly composed, performed and sung by the lovely Rahul Bhatt
Since when have you been writing and why?
I have writing verses since I was a child, mainly to find relief from pain and loneliness. However at one stage, my dad began bribing me with ten bucks a day for every page I wrote of a story. Money is a great incentive.
Is there a message you want to convey through your writing and cinema? What is it?
Yes of course. What’s the point in making a movie if it won’t tell you a human story that will make us a better world or a better being? It is all to do with ‘One World, One Faith, One Race. One Colour, Just A Different Face’. Having said that my next threads slightly outside of that, but still a very human thought provoking issue.
What in your opinion is a more effective art form — poetry or cinema?
Cinema. Sadly because more people like to watch than read. However, the sensitive and thinkers are still moved by poetry. But they are the minority who go and do something about it for the betterment of the world. The rest just want to be entertained, one film to another.
How do you fit in poetry and cinema into your life as an IT professional?
I really don’t know. They are completely different and I am equally passionate about them. I tell everyone that if you woke me up in the middle of the night and asked me to what I could do really well right there, it would be 1)cinema 2) business IT and 3) annoying my wife.
You are a staunch believer in ‘ One World, One Faith, One Race. One Colour, Just A Different Face’ — the motto for a ‘company’ you floated called Uncultured Company. Can you tell us a bit about this and your ideas?
Well to start with it is not a company per say. I grew up in lovely Goa in the mid 80s when the beaches were a haven for thinkers, artist, simple folk who came to find themselves, to connect with mother nature and there wasn’t the rape by tourism as we know it today. I moved to London at the age of fifteen-sixteen and was exposed to news of a world full of people fighting in the name of man-made barriers such a religion, colours, races etc. I just wanted to take everyone to my Goan beach and show them that it was possible to live together in harmony. That’s when the group started. The message of peace and love and tolerance, from the streets of society — the Rastafarians, the buskers, the uncultured. Everything I do is tagged to that brand.
What are your future plans?
A few more spoken word videos for sure. Right now we are fundraising for my next short. It stars a Bollywood actor, a happening model and a few surprise guest here and there. There is also a feature film story I am working on for a friend in Bollywood. The story was great and the friend very precious to me for me to have taken it on at this time. Last year I finished the first draft of my first novel ‘The Emperor Cried’ which has just been reviewed by a publisher back home. There is some rewrite to be done there, which I will get back to after I shoot The Forgiveness.
Click here to see Tagore Almeida films
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