Monday, 4 May 2015



-Brian Mendonça

The kaxanvkar, or the  coffin maker,  is going out of style in Goa. This is message that the tiatr directed by Prince Jacob, deftly puts across. Though people continue to die, there seem to be no coffins to put them in! Gen-next thinks it is odious or outrageous to be knocking nails in someone else’s coffin.

This serious subject is exploited to the full in the tiatr. Just as apartments are being sold in Goa at street corners, so are coffins. You can purchase a 1BHK coffin or a 2BHK coffin depending on the size of your wallet or handbag.  You can even try out a coffin to see if it fits your size. How is this possible? You will have to go to watch the tiatr. You could also pre-book your coffin, because some coffin makers make coffins which have the power to resurrect you!

Coffins and coffin makers were also the subject of Veena Bakshi’s debut feature film The Coffin Maker (2011) shot in Goa and which was screened at IFFI in Goa in 2013.  Anton Gomes played by Naseerudin Shah, is fed up of his occupation as a coffin maker and is determined not to allow his son to follow him.

The high point of Kaxanvkar is that when the son of the house gives up his traditional occupation of being a coffin maker (because his fiancée – who comes from a family of builders -- sees it as beneath their status), it is the daughter and the aged mother who carry on the tradition.

Kaxanvkar showcases different kinds of wailing. The hired mourners make a scene by lamenting for the dead person. This tradition of professional female mourners has been documented in Rudaali (1993) directed by Kalpana Lajmi starring Dimple Kapadia as Shanichari the mourner. Set in the bewitching beauty of Rajasthan, the mourners dressed in black against the pale yellow of the desert sand sing a paen to death.

It is estimated that there are around 50 coffin-makers in Goa with the price for a coffin ranging from Rs. 4500 to Rs. 20,000. In Goa funeral services have become sophisticated. They can be booked online. (Estbd.1988) offers services which include coffin, hearse, flowers, obituary, graveside, backdrop and niches. Britto and Sons, Undertakers of Kurla West and now Vashi  in Navi / Mumbai are well known. Established in 1980 it is a family enterprise though some of the children are branching out.

 We have a morbid fascination for coffins. In the short story ‘Angel Wings’ set in Goa by Victor Rangel-Ribeiro,  a man lies down in his coffin shocking his sister, just to see what it feels like. One person has put up his ‘dark knight’ coffin on the internet and has invited likes/dislikes. For 10$ you can be buried alive in a simulated ‘coffin ride’ in Melbourne. A night vision DVD recording would cost you an additional 5$. For a graveside view, watch the chilling ‘Buried Alive’ scene of Kill Bill 2 in HD.*

*; published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St.Inez. Goa on Sunday, 3 May 2015. pix courtesy: Joegoauk on flickr 

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