For her innovative interpretation of the animation genre, Shilpa Ranade has been selected to receive The WIFTS Foundation 2013 Inaugural Animation Award.
Director Shilpa Ranade believes that one needs to go further than the cute animation that has been a trend for long. "We are used to cute and clean animation. We need to break out from that," says Ranade, who was one of the panelists at Seeking Original, an open forum on animation at the International Children's Film Festival, Hyderabad. The director believes that animation is a magical medium and animators should try something other than films based on mythology, which has been the popular trend until now.
Ranade's 78-minute animation film Goopi Gawaiyaa Bagha Bajaiyaa (The World of Goopi and Bagha) premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and was the Opening film at the 18th International Children's Film Festival, India (ICFFI), on November 14, 2013.
Goopi Gawaiiya Bagha Bajaiiya is an adaptation of Bengali writer Upendrakishore Raychowdhuri's Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, a comic fantasy that was most famously adapted for the screen in 1969 by his renowned grandson, Satyajit Ray. Playfulness with color and form suffuse every frame of the animated movie. Ranade has imagined the world of off-key singer Goopy and tone-dead drummer Bagha as a thickly woven, multi-hued and brocaded quilt, with enough texture to the two-dimensional marionette-like characters to make you want to stroke the screen.
Over two-and-a-half-years in the making, Goopi Gawaiiya Bagha Bajaiiya is a modest production by international animation standards—not more than 20 people were working on the film at any given point. The pacy screenplay, by her husband, filmmaker Soumitra Ranade (his company, Paperboat Animation Studios, worked on the project) and the irreverent dialogue and lyrics by Rohit Gahlowt point to the intended target audience, which is children, but adults can also enjoy the production design and the cheerful soundtrack by the trio Three Brothers and a Violin.
The characters and backdrops have been created out of actual swatches of textile prints and upholstery—everybody and everything, from the dim-witted but well-meaning musicians whose adventures take them to the lands of Shundi and Hundi, to the kings and ministers, and the palaces and prisons, are dressed in colorful patches. Almost everything is inspired by fabric, even the grass. The movie feels like a richly illustrated book come alive.
The characters are drawn like dolls, but they are also slightly grotesque, with bulbous eyes, misshapen teeth and curiously shaped bodies. The ghost king, who is the only person impressed by the musicians' cacophony, grants them four wishes rather than three. Woven into the story are messages against war mongering and for peace and inclusiveness.
Ranade emphasizes the importance of government's participation in support of the arts. Goopi Gawaiyaa Bagha Bajaiyaa is produced by Children's Film Society, India. "I'm not sure whether I would've been able to make a film such as this without state funding. We need the state to step in to bring more varied films to more people," said Ranade.
Ranade has been teaching animation for the Masters in Design course at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B) since 2001. The 47-year-old filmmaker graduated in Applied Art from Sir JJ Institute of Applied Art in Mumbai, and later studied Visual Communication at IIT-B and animation at the Royal College of Art in London. She has illustrated many children's books and worked on animated films for Channel 4, among others.
Goopi & Bagha
Directed by Shilpa Ranade