The original story of Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne was a skeleton on which you could mount all types of flesh, that was its beauty. Written by Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury, as a child I had seen Satyajit Ray’s adaptation which released 1969. Of course, back then I didn’t know that I would adapt it into an animated film,” says Shilpa Ranade, director of Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya, which released in theatres last week, six years
after it was completed. The release coincides with the golden jubilee of Ray’s original Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne. “It takes a lot of money and courage to release a film theatrically,” she adds.
The 120-minute animated feature film based on Ray’s classic retells the story of the tone deaf singer-musician duo and the capers they get into when they are exiled from their respective towns. Before adapting it for the 76 mm screen, Ranade had illustrated the story in a children’s book. “In 2010-2011, Scholastic India gave me the manuscript of the original GGBB (1969) that was being retold by Gulzar. They asked me to do illustrations for the same,” says Ranade, 52. Over the years, she found herself returning to the source material innumerable times. “The original had a two-three page long text and illustrated versions of the story were available in woodcuts and prints. I wanted to do something on similar lines and felt it was appropriate material for an animated film,” says Ranade.
The filmmaker notes how the narrative might be rooted in the Indian storytelling tradition but the theme is universal and also relates with the current political climate. “We talk of peace, love and how violence is never the answer. It’s definitely an anti-war film. Singing and dancing actually saves the day. Many people have told me that the film is pertinent in the current times. I am glad the message has resonated,” says the graduate in art from Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai.
The characters are carefully drawn — the limbs of each character is stuck at sharp odd-angles, with stitches on the faces and protuberant nose and eyes. Traditional elements of Indian weaves and handicrafts such as mirror work, embroidery, batik and ajrakh have been imbibed. “I have studied leather puppetry, including Togalu Gombeyaata from Karnataka. The puppets are textured and have perforations and embellishments,” adds Ranade. With her father in the armed forces, she travelled across India as a child. The alumnus of Royal College of Art, London, currently teaches animation at Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai, where she pursued her masters.
In the making for three years, the film also has several pop culture references. The music takes a tongue-in-cheek dig at popular iconic numbers — the song from Milan (1967) with the play on the word ‘sor’ vs ‘shor’ gets translated to ‘svet’ vs ‘shvet’. The old ditty of Hum bolega toh bologe ki bolta hai from the film Kasauti (1974) gets transformed to Hum toh bas nachega gayega bajayega. “We wanted to have a pan-India appeal. We have a hint of dandiya, qawwali and a war song. We end the film with a malhaar. We have different voices singing the songs,” says Ranade.
While the film that released in 150 screens across India opened to rave reviews, Ranade feels there is much to be done in the genre of animation. “Animation as a space is very exciting but sadly people in India are not ready for it. We don’t have a viewing culture. We are only used to Japanese or western styles. We need to build an audience, which is funny because we have such a rich visual tradition and culture of storytelling,” says she.