The World of Goopi and Bagha: Mumbai Review
Mumbai Film Festival (India Gold), Oct. 19, 2013
Rajeev Raj, Manish Bhawan
From the Children’s Film Society India comes an animated remake of the story told in Satyajit Ray’s beloved comic fable.
One of Indian master Satyajit Ray’s most beloved works, and his most commercially successful film domestically, is his 1969 children’s film The Adventures of Goopy and Bagha, which he adapted from his grandfather Upendra Kishore Roychowdury’s story Goopy Bagha. Ray also composed the songs and music for the film. In this latter-day animated version in Hindi, director Shilpa Ranade and screenwriter Soumitra Ranade base themselves on the original story rather than Ray’s live-action film, with very appreciable results.
But as an exotic kidpic, it will probably encounter the same difficulties Ray’s film did with foreign audiences, who didn’t get into the spirit of the tale or connect much with the classic fable. With its imaginative use of textures and patterns, the animation here looks as different from Disney as a Japanese manga, and will be even less familiar to Western audiences. The Children’s Film Society India production should still have a good shot with young auds on home turf and can expect more festival play after its initial bows in Toronto and Mumbai.
The story begins in a colorful village where the rooster who is supposed to crow at the crack of dawn is drowned out by the tone-deaf rasping of aspiring singer Goopi. The exasperated villagers exile him to the forest, where he meets Bagha, an aspiring drummer who has been banished from his town for similar reasons. Together they raise a noisy cacophony which attracts the attention of a fearsome Ghost King made of tree bark and fire. After his minions perform a ghost dance (pleasurable enough, but a far cry from the famous 6-minute sequence in Ray’s film), he grants the musicians three boons, plus a fourth saved for the future. They wish for tasty food to appear whenever they’re hungry, magic shoes that will transport them wherever they want to go, and most importantly, the ability to enchant anyone who listens to their music. The friendly Ghost King readily agrees.
Now their music becomes a joy to hear. They land in the kingdom of Shundi, where they entrance the good king with a charming song. But soon news arrives that his evil brother, the ruler of Hundi, is planning to attack. Being a peace-loving fellow, the Shundi king has no army, putting him in a tough spot until the musicians promise to go and straighten things out in exchange for the hand of a doe-eyed Princess.
In Hundi elephants and soldiers are prepping the upcoming invasion. The trouble is the king’s ambitious general, who is in cahoots with a green wizard to poison the king’s mind and make him go to war. But once again their music works its magic, thanks also to the engaging songs performed by 3 Brothers and a Violin to Rowhat Gaulowt’s amusing lyrics.
Although Goopi and Bagha are bumpkins and simpletons, their good hearts and passion for music always prevail over a lack of brains. Touchingly, they choose to use their fourth, saved-up boon to give the people in Hundi back their voices, presumably taken away by the authoritarian general. The political message against war and dictators of all stripes is subtle but clear. A pity there's not a single female character in the story who has a line of dialog.
In her first feature film, book illustrator and animator Shilpa Ranade gives the classic story a very particular look with 2D figures that recall marionettes and the use of patterned cloth in clothes and décor to create a tactile feeling of depth. The result is an exotic, busy canvas with a lot of detail to look at and enjoy.
Venue: Mumbai Film Festival (India Gold), Oct. 19, 2013.
Production company: Children’s Film Society India
Animation: Paperboat Animation Studios
Cast: Rajeev Raj, Manish Bhawan, Shailendra Pande, Shahanawaz Pradhan, Vishal Kumar
Director: Shilpa Ranade
Screenwriter: Soumitra Ranade, based on a story by Upendra Kishore Roychowdhury
Producer: Shravan Kumar
Executive producer: Soumitra Ranade
Production designer: Shilpa Ranade
Editor: Avinash Walzade
Music: 3 Brothers and a Violin
Lyrics: Rowhat Gaulowt
Sales Agent: Children’s Film Society India
No rating, 78 minutes