There are two reasons I recommend Trikal. One, because it covers a part of Indian history that is unknown, not only to much of the world, but also to most Indians. Secondly, it is by one of India’s best directors, Shyam Benegal. Each of Benegal’s films [click here for the list] is a cinematic gem, in how he artistically captures India’s culture, society, and history in minute details within his storyline. I’d put Benegal alongside Satyajit Ray as one of the greatest film directors in the history of Indian cinema. Trikal is set in Goa when it was under Portuguese rule. What many don’t know is that Portugal colonized parts of India long before the British did (in 1510) and, left India much after the British did, in 1961. The story is set in 1961 when Portuguese are planning to leave and India is preparing to take over Goa. The film shows how the people of Goa were divided about being a part of India. After 450 years of Portuguese rule Goa had developed a unique culture, very different from the rest of India’s, and many of the Goan people wanted to retain this identity through independence from India.
In fact unlike the British, who maintained a distance from Indians, by maintaining black and white sections of town, and imposing racial apartheid by banning Indians from designated areas: shops, restaurants, clubs, etc, the Portuguese inter-married with the locals and the two cultures blended to produce a marvelously, unique culture which Goa is today. And this is beautifully depicted in the settings of this film. Indeed, the scenes are sometimes reminiscent of Latin America, and could be out of an Isabella Allende novel, which have a similar blending of Spanish/ Portuguese cultures with the native cultures. The film starts with a young man Ruiz Pereira, returning to his native village Goa which he had fled in that critical year of Goa’s history, 1961, after getting a young woman, Milagrenia, pregnant. Milagrenia was the illegitimate daughter of one of the wealthiest men in town, Souza Soares, and was raised by his wife, who kept her in their home as a “servant.” Ruiz returns to the palatial Souza Soares home, where no one lives now, and which is now in ruins and it is through his recollections that the story of the family, the town and its people in that critical year of Goa’s independence is presented. One of the most powerful sentiments expressed in this film is when towards the end Ruiz asks himself why he returned, and realizes that he wanted to make amends with his past. He says Milagrenia, was the illegitimate child, who was raised like a cow in that wealthy household for all passersby to milk.