Mazes, illusions and effects; inside Filmmaker Soumitra’s Ranade’s world

While walking through the mazes of ‘Bhool Bhulaiya’ in Lucknow some years back, he saw loads of children running through those passages, laughing and chasing each other, while their teachers had a tough time controlling them — it was like the kids had entered a video game. But he also saw fear in their eyes — what if they really got lost in these mysterious passages?

That immediately kicked an idea inside filmmaker Soumitra Ranade’s mind and he soon finished the first draft of the book ‘Bhrigu and the Palace of Mirrors’ that will hit the stands soon.

Known for his films including ‘Goopi Gawaiyaa Bagha Bajaiyaa’ (2019), ‘Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai?’ (2019) and ‘Jajantaram Mamantaram’ (2004), the filmmaker and writer said that for a long time he had been wanting to do something based around India’s extraordinary architectural heritage. “The Jantar Mantar, Konark temple, Ajanta Caves or even the Taj are mere chapters in school history books. These buildings have very little connection with not just the younger generation but also us adults. This book gave me an opportunity to address that.”

Not believing in strict classifications, Ranade, who has written several short stories stresses that all the books he has bought for his children were also enjoyed by him. “Libraries, book shops and publishing houses classify them for cataloging purposes. My latest one comes under multiple heads: Children, adults, action, adventure, fantasy, mystery and so on. Writing and then illustrating it gave me sheer joy. It is interesting for me sometimes to let go of the logical, the scientific and embrace the fantastic and the illusory.”

Adding that India works only for the 24 to 45 year-old upper caste/class male and no one else matters — children being the least of our priority, he said, “Well, what have we, as a country, ever done for our children? Do they even have enough parks to play? Sports facilities, libraries. As a result of this, they are all just hooked on to Bollywood or IPL. That’s all we have given them. And that’s a real pity.”

Ranade feels that the experience of writing a book is much liberating as there is no financial angle involved like in films — raising the money, hiring crews and then selling it. Adding that contrary to popular perception, not much has changed in the Mumbai film industry in the past 15 years, this film direction pass-out from FTII, Pune added, “Maybe it is slightly better for some kind of filmmakers, but by and large for people who want to experiment with the medium, situation is about the same. Most of the ‘offbeat’ films that have done well lately are either comedies or thrillers. It is still a challenge for the dark or the personal or the experimental films. But then, I have made certain choices and I am quite willing to bear the consequences.”

Presently in Kasauli with filmmaker and writer Saeed Mirza who is working on another book, Ranade, who is writing his next film said, “In the evenings, over a drink, we discuss what we have done through the day and exchange notes.”

Considering his strong background in visual arts, the filmmaker, who studied at Sir JJ Institute of Applied Arts before going to film school said that he finds the work that one can do in post-production absolutely fascinating. It is like adding another layer of aesthetic to the film. “I am also lucky that I have an animation/vfx studio – Paperboat Design Studios. In fact, I do see myself moving more and more towards digital technology and it won’t really be surprising if in the next five years I make films entirely on my laptop.”