Creating fantasy

The story recalls the original,but builds around its skeleton with many new details unfolding layer by layer where our two blundering musician protagonists meet ghosts,obtain boons,avert wars and marry princesses

Published: September 6, 2013 12:44 am

I first encountered Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne in the form of Satyajit Ray’s classic film from the ’60s. The film was based on the original writing by his grandfather Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury and has seen countless retellings and versions. It had a timeless charm that drew me to watch it repeatedly over the years. Several of the versions were brilliantly illustrated,bringing the story immediately to life. The story was thus embedded in my mind as a jigsaw of the many images associated with it,each equally powerful and evocative.

My work as a book illustrator made me illustrate a version of this classic. As exciting as the prospect of doing this was,it seemed equally daunting. It was almost impossible to come close to the absolute magic of the imagery that came with the story. Yet along the way the intimidating prospect of re-visualising and retelling a classic turned into an exciting engagement with what my own interpretation of the story was. While illustrating the book,the thought that crossed my mind was of how the story was given to the moving image and could be transformed into a wonderful animated film. It was an ideal story with its delightful everyday characters mixed with high fantasy,traversing a path full of exhilarating adventure.

The images for the book came from a legacy of old woodcuts and printmaking. For the film,they underwent yet another transformation and took on a quirky,twisted feel,creating a world that is peopled with idiosyncratic characters in equally improbable settings. The story recalls the original but builds around its skeleton with many new details unfolding layer by layer,spring boarding and spiralling skyward from the narrative where our two blundering yet lovable musician protagonists meet ghosts,obtain boons,avert wars,marry princesses and help the common people live happily ever after.

The two-and-a-half-year long journey towards realising the film has been arduous and enjoyable. Animation is a medium that tests you,it is labour intensive and rigorous,and yet what keeps you going frame by frame is the life that takes shape and begins to move,almost despite you,with an energy very much its own. You are left startled and enslaved and ready to labour on and on,towards more wondrous surprises.

As with the idea for the film,everything during the process of realisation fell into place in a manner that did not mimic any existing animation yardstick. The characters did not belong to the classical animation tradition nor did the environment recall a familiar landscape or built environment. The design for the film followed purely from the script adaptation,which evokes a mad world with madder inhabitants.

The inspiration for the patterned,pop-up,cut-out world of Goopi and Bagha has come from many influences over the years — storybook illustrations,textiles,quilts,upholstery,puppets,east European animation films,objects and textures. This allowed Goopi and Bagha to belong to a world that can be the one and only place they would fit into. A world full of ironies and fantastical peculiarities.

Many of us toiled day and night to bring the film to completion and each put in their all,somehow tunneling varied and discrete efforts and allowing them to amalgamate into a film that is made purely for the love of the moving image,for stories that belong to us,for expressing an indigenous sensibility,for the sake of a delightful story,and above all for two good souls,Goopi and Bagha who only want to dance and sing and play on and on.

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