Shilpa Ranade is an acclaimed Indian designer, animator, illustrator, filmmaker and academician who has done illustrations for many children’s books and directed animated short films for Channel 4-UK. Her films have been screened all over the world, earning praises and awards in some of the most prestigious film festivals. Her latest animation feature film Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya (GGBB) releases today, March 1.
GGBB is based on Upendrakishore Raychowdhry’s classic Goopi Gyne Baagha Byne. Directed by Ranade, the film has been produced by Children’s Film Society of India (CFSI) in association with Karadi Tales. GGBB has won the AASIFA Award for best animated feature film, Jury Award for best Art Work at ICFF, Hyderabad, nominated for best film APSA Brisbane, Orbit Live Industry award for best animated feature, and the WIFTS award, Los Angeles. Excerpts from Piya Sengupta’s interview with Shilpa Ranade:
What made you choose Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya?
I watched Satyajit Ray’s film Goopi Gyne Baagha Byne when I was a student of art. I absolutely loved the film. It is an iconic film. And it has stayed with me. Then five years back I got a book to illustrate for children. That was a retelling of Goopi Gyne Baagha Byne done by Gulzar. It came to me from Scholastic. When I was doing the book I was thinking, it would be an amazing story for animation and will make a lot of sense for today’s kids. It is a legacy that should go on. Then I went back to reading the original story by Upendrakishore Raychowdhury, the 1915 publication. And from that we built a script for us – from the original story, not from the film.
So, this started a long time back?
Yes, because you know, animation takes a long time to make, and then also to bring it out. It’s very difficult. We still don’t have the processes yet. It’s getting there, but still a long way to go.
Just because it is Goopi Gyne Baagha Byne, I have to ask. Do you have a Kolkata connection?
(Laughs) No, just the connection with the story. But you know, the story has a universal connection. Doesn’t matter where you are from, you can relate to this story.
The film has won a few awards, and has also been nominated for Best Animated Feature Film in the 2013 Asia Pacific Screen Awards. How excited are you for its release on March 1?
I am very excited. And specially to see how the Kolkata audience would like it. It is releasing in all the metros, and a total of nine cities. But like I said, it has a universal appeal. Though it is a children’s film it is for everybody. I hope everyone in Kolkata like it – I know they have a special attachment with the story.
This film was made in 2013, I believe. How was the experience after that? Why does it take so long to release a film in theatre?
It was made and funded by Children’s Film Society India.
Their mandate is to make content for children. But they don’t necessarily release it. They have their own network and they show the films in festivals, and take them to schools and children but not through theatre. In 2013 after we finished making the film, we started doing the festivals. We went all over the world- took it to the biggest festivals like the Toronto International Film Festival, Busan International Film Festival, Dubai International Film Festival. Everyone loved it.
But releasing a film in theatre is expensive and we still don’t have the processes, it took a long time to find funds, and figuring out how to do it. But trying to find someone to release a film in theatre requires a lot of funds. Then Karadi Tales stepped in. They have been making audio and book content for children for a long time. The director of Karadi Tales is also the director of music in my film. That’s how it all fell in place. He had stepped in to release the film.
The illustrations of this film have a dark, magical feel to it. What did you have in mind when you created this world? Did the film characters of Ray’s film inspire you in any way?
The world of animation is all about fantasy. Why would you make something realistic in animation? It should appeal to the interior world — the world in our heads and the world we want to create.
I wasn’t thinking of the film characters. But I was reading the original story in the book itself and I was looking at the illustrations that were done earlier in the magazines, Sukumar Ray’s magazines, and they are amazing and have this surreal quality. They are serious art and yet look funny and nonsensical.
I wanted it to have that tone. Also, I had seen some leather puppetry and wanted the animation to recall that. I also looked up some folk art of Bengal and the ghost character in the film has come out of that.
Do you have any plans to come down to Kolkata when the film is releasing?
Not as of now. But hoping to do that at some point as it would be interesting to talk to a Bengali about the film and how they liked it.
Who is your favourite character in your film?
Goopy and Bagha of course and Bhooter Raja.
Tell me about the film’s music.
All the songs are story telling songs. They take the story forward. So in the spirit of being a musical, it has eight songs. Every song is situational, and it’s about what is happening at that moment and they have been written with words that take the story forward. We wanted the music to be pan-Indian. We didn’t want to have a feeling that it belongs to one place or recall any particular region. The whole sense is derived from folk, classical, all kinds of forms. Even Goopi sings in different voices throughout the film. We had a lot of fun doing the music and taking all the different forms and you won’t recognize any particular form. But somewhere it has a resonance. We only used acoustic, and nothing electrical. And the singers are amazing.
I have read that this film is an inspiration from the book. But is it a changed story?
The skeleton of the story is the same. But it is a recreation where we have made our own twists and turn. A recreation is appreciated if it offers something new, and not an imitation of the original. But I would want you to see it first before I tell you the secrets.
How do you anticipate the people of Kolkata to receive the film?
I am not worried at all. I have shown it at so many festivals and the Bengalis especially have loved it. Every time I have had a screening, Bengalis have come up and congratulated me.
So I feel I am not going to disappoint them at all.
What are your inspirations when drawing?
Lots of things are inspiring for me. I get inspired by anything that is beautiful and touches me. It doesn’t matter from where it is coming. But there are some Russian, Eastern European, and Canadian film makers whose work I love. The Russian Filmmaker Yuri Norstein and Canadian Caroline Leaf both are wonderful. Maybe there is an influence of both of them.
The release of the film coincides with 50 years of the release of Satyajit Ray’s film Goopi Gyne Baagha Byne. Was it planned that way?
No not at all. It is not intentional, just a happy coincidence.
[Photographs and videos courtesy Karadi Tales]
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