Under-Dogged Pursuit

Mumbai-based Bikas Ranjan Mishra turns underdogs into heroes with films such as Nach Ganesha and Chauranga — his next.

Written by Prajakta Hebbar | Published: April 2, 2012 3:37 am

Mumbai-based Bikas Ranjan Mishra turns underdogs into heroes with films such as Nach Ganesha and Chauranga — his next.

We all know that Peter Parker (as Spiderman) struggled with his secret identity,so did Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent,as Batman and Superman respectively. The whole vigilante-by-night-working-guy-by-day persona might work in case of fighting crime,but does it work when it comes to passion? Nach Ganesha (dance of Ganesha) is the story of a tribal dancer who feels alive only when he becomes the magnificent elephant god,Ganesh,and practices his ancestral art. Juggling roles as a breadwinner for the family in a remote village in Jharkhand,Ganesha — the protagonist — lives in perpetual fear of the day when he has to make a choice between livelihood and art.

Written and directed by Mumbai-based Bikas Ranjan Mishra,the film has been travelling to film festivals around the globe — beginning with Busan International Film Festival,South Korea,in October last year and later to Rotterdam,Netherlands,and Quebec,Canada. And now,it has been selected for Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) as well. “It is important to me since IFFLA is considered as the gateway to Hollywood for Indian films,” says Mishra.

So how did Mishra turn the underdog into a hero? “I think my deeper personal crisis has found expression in this film. I came to Mumbai with a dream to tell my own stories,but got caught in the factories that generate television content. To earn a living,I wrote for TV. I wrote about things that I could never relate to,just like a factory worker who has no relationship with the end product,” explains Mishra. “I deeply related to the Chhau dancers of Jharkhand,whose reality is quite similar to mine. They,too,work in factories to support their families. Thankfully,I’ve been able to get out of the factories and make my films. I wish the same for the dancers of my film,” he adds.

Mishra is currently working on his first feature film Chauranga (four colours),which won a $ 20,000 Incredible India Award at the International Film Festival of India in December last year. The film — based on the life of a 14-year-old Dalit boy,growing up in an unnamed corner of India,who gets killed because he writes a love letter to a 16-year-old upper-caste Hindu girl — touches upon the political and social system of a small community. “I’ve spent my early childhood days in a Jharkhand village,so I’ve know my protagonists and characters for a long time. I’ve played with them and grown up with them. Chauranga has come out of a long and arduous process of questioning one’s own self,after a similar news report was shown to me by a filmmaker friend,” says Mishra.

To be produced by Onir and Sanjay Suri of I AM fame,the movie is to be shot in the Indian heartland,and is due for release next year. “My producers have been reading my drafts for more than a year now. They came on board as soon as I was ready with the final draft,” he adds.

So does Mishra plan to enter mainstream Bollywood? He’s quick to reply,“Well,I’m a storyteller and all I want is to make films which I can connect with,and the rest is immaterial.”

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