Mumbai, 01 Mar 2019 6:00 IST
Filmmaker Shilpa Ranade reworks and updates the classic story of the decades-old characters from Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, immortalized by Satyajit Ray’s 1969 film.
The animated film Goopi Gawaiyaa Bagha Bajaiyaa has big shoes to fill. Based on a story by intellectual and composer Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury, the tale was adapted into a film, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (1969), by the writer's grandson, Satyajit Ray.
Now, 50 years later, the story is being introduced anew through the medium of animation with filmmaker Shilpa Ranade, though it was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival back in 2013.
Ranade’s film reworks and updates the classic story to present the story of Goopi, an aspiring singer, and Bagha, an aspiring musician. Both believe their talent knows no bounds. The truth is, both are awful and kicked out of their respective kingdoms of Amloki and Chimkoli as no one can bear their music.
Goopi (voiced by Rajeev Raj) and Bagha (voiced by Manish Bhawan) meet as kindred spirits in the jungle, both banished on asses, and worried about being eaten alive by a tiger. They huddle together and break out in song, attracting the attention of the king of ghosts who, surprisingly, enjoys the toneless musical talents of the duo. He grants them four boons (not three as in the original) as a reward.
With the powers of instant teleportation to any place in the world, an endless lavish spread of food available with a clap of the hand, and the ability to mesmerize everybody with their music, Goopi and Bagha have the world at the feet. They choose to go to the kingdom of Shundi to try their luck.
Lakshmipati, the ruler, is dreading an attack by the well-armed kingdom of Hundi led by his twin Padmapati. The musical duo volunteer to persuade the warring brother to de-escalate his attack, lured by the promise of the hand of the beautiful princess, Monimala.
Off they go, loaded with their newly awarded powers, to bring back happiness to the kingdoms of Shundi and Hundi. Both lead characters, however, are naive and goofy and it takes much effort on their part to get on the right track.
The world of Goopi Gawaiyaa Bagha Bajaiyaa, told through 2D animation by Paperboat Animation Studios, is wonderfully appealing. The film’s colour palette is attractive with warm yellows of the morning, midnight blues and majestic purples of the night as Goopi and Bagha move from kingdom to kingdom.
The characters in the film, with their long faces and distinct facial appearances, almost caricature-like, feel as though they have stepped right out of a storybook. The ferocious look of the king of ghosts was especially impressive.
That is likely down to Shilpa Ranade’s background as an illustrator of books. The texturing of the elements in the background and the props of the characters have a textile feel to them, something we haven’t really seen in the world of Indian animation films.
Like in the original, the dialogues by Rohit Gehlowt rhyme, and are clever on wordplay. I actually chuckled out loud a couple of times. The rousing score by the musical group 3 Brothers & A Violin touts the mesmerizing power of the duo.
The screenplay by Soumitra Ranade takes some liberties with this story that may have some purists frowning, but it does not detract from the storytelling in the least. This animation version of Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne is making its own mark with its distinctive choices taken for the characters and the world they inhabit.
The film is being marketed as India’s first children’s film for adults, which shows how animation is perceived in the country. The long-delayed production is a delightful watch simply because of how different it is from most of the animated fare emerging from India, and is aimed as a story for everyone to watch.
Hearing Goopi and Bagha’s anti-war message and their continued efforts to foster peace between the twin rulers, torn apart by evil ministers and magical wizards, also strike a chord in this current political climate where India, too, sits on the precipice of possible war, unless saner minds prevail.
While Satyajit Ray’s 1969 film stands on its own in the minds and memories of many, Shilpa Ranade’s feature deserves to be seen. It’s a charming treat, not be missed.
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