Animation Boost for Goopi, Bagha Magic
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During the year when Ranade was working on the book, the story grew on her. She would envision it in the old woodcut and print making style, and the characters eventually started to shape quite distinctly from the book. That is when Ranade decided to adapt the story into an animation film. Titled Goopi Gawaiiya Bagha Bajaiiya, the animation film, which she has directed, has been made in association with Children's Film Society, India (CFSI). "The title has been altered since the film is in Hindi. But the film is set in a world of fantasy where the architecture, ambience, inhabitants and ghosts belong to a world that is their own," she explains.
While the essence of the film, Ranade says, remains the same as that of the original tale "of goodness, adventure and giving back to the people", the story evolved. Singer Goopi and dholak-player Bagha, when banished from the kingdoms they respectively belong to — because of their cacophonous music — encounter ghosts in the jungle. Mesmerised by their jugalbandi, the ghosts grant them four — not three as in Roychowdhury's version — boons. Apart from assisting the benevolent king of Shundi reunite with his brother, they also help others.
While Ranade asserts that the fourth boon was the result of script iterations, it was also a conscious decision to distinguish it from the many retellings — including that of Roychowdhury's grandson Satyajit Ray's film — that already exist. "We have added our interpretations to the basic skeleton of the original. Animation demands a different kind of engagement from a regular film, has its own peculiar power as a medium, and we made every effort not to lose sight of this fact," the director explains.
In order to achieve this, Ranade lent a dark look and feel to the characters and setting. The characters appear almost ragged puppet-like, as if stitched up using cloth. "Actual cloth and material textures are applied throughout the film giving it an unusual feel," says Ranade, of the technique.
Music, however, remains an essential part of the film, as in Ray's film adaptation, with eight songs that are part of the narrative. The lyrics have been penned by Rohit Gahlowt, also the dialogue writer, while the band 3 Brothers and a Violin composed the music. "We have explored bharud, natya sangeet, nirgun, Kabir renditions, classical ragas and stotrams in the songs. There is an emphasis on both Goopi's voice and the sound of the drum that Bagha plays alongside," adds Ranade, who has also created the look and feel for UTV's animation film, Alibaba and the 41 Thieves.
While Ranade's previous works have mostly been distributed through various edutainment channels, especially new media, she is planning a theatrical release for Goopi Gawaiiya Baaja Bajaiiya. Animation hasn't been consistently successful at the box office, but Ranade believes the problem lies chiefly with the baggage of Hollywood animation films made on big budgets and the rut of mythology that Indian animation is stuck in. "We have not imitated the American style. Unless we speak in a voice that is ours, success will elude us," she says.
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