After making a handful of short films, it was an obvious urge to make something bigger. It is undoubtedly tough for a mere short filmmaker to venture into making feature films, and my dream of making something beyond shorts seemed to delay indefinitely. And then came the trend of web-series. For that, a lot web-content developers in India, including me, must be hugely indebted to TVF for making Permanent Roommates. It opened a new avenue for a film-like expression with a rather feasible chance of getting audience.
Having said that, it’s undeniable that most web-content in India, both shorts and web-series, is in the slice-of-life comedy space. While I like watching most of them, I find myself handicapped – both emotionally and creatively – to make something like that. Even if I get a few ideas on those lines, such concepts die on me very easily, and I just don’t feel motivated enough to make such content. As Abhishek Gautam, the associate producer of RANJISH, jokingly says, ‘Shouvik wants to makes only those stories that can traumatise people.’ While that is definitely not true, something a bit on the darker side intrigues me more.
There was no one reason for me to decide to make RANJISH. After I discussed the prospect of making a web-series with Humaramovie (HM), I looked at a few stories that I had and wanted to tell. I narrated them to Abhishek, who has been the main touchpoint on behalf of HM, and both of us felt that RANJISH was the best story to make and share with everyone. I should take this one moment to appreciate the entire HM producers’ team for agreeing to do RANJISH, when they could have tried to follow the trend and make something more crowd pleasing.
Yes, RANJISH is not a pleasing film by any stretch of imagination. However, before I venture into discussing what it is about, let me answer that one question which I have been asked innumerable times over the last one year. ‘What does RANJISH mean?’ The closest English word for it would be ANGUISH. Of course, I borrowed the name from one of my perennially favourite songs – “Ranjish hi sahi” – the extraordinary ghazal written by Ahmed Faraz and popularised by the stupendous Mehdi Hassan. I don’t recollect how the name struck me, but it seemed perfect from the moment I thought about it, and almost everyone since then has loved the title.
RANJISH, the web-series, is undoubtedly about a man’s agony and despondency, but it is also about something much larger and universally relevant. Yes, it is about the abyss to which the protagonist sinks because of the loss of his wife, but it is also about the sheer inhuman thing that he does as a purported retaliation to avenge what he underwent. Yes, in a rather simplistic way, RANJISH is a Hindu-Muslim story (as a guy who was supposed to cut the trailer said), and what a Hindu police officer does to terrorise an innocuous Muslim couple, just because the cop’s wife died in a terrorist attack, but it is also about the demon within us that unleashes itself at the scent of revenge.
Now that we are releasing the series on 26 January, 2016, it may seem like an attempt to encash on the sheer communal distress we are facing at both national and international scenarios. In the last one year, we have seen a continuous discussion on growing intolerance among people. It was possibly one of the most hotly debated issues of 2015, and even now when see the happenings at Malda (West Bengal), the question keeps popping up – are we truly a happily secular country? I do not know whether communal tensions and misgivings have increased over the last one and half years, but they surely have got a lot more attention in the media. And that makes RANJISH a very important socio-political story.
But the true intent of making RANJISH has never been to sensationalise a problem that we all are facing. The idea has been to broach a discussion – why are we angry with each other on grounds of religion and is there any benefit at all of this mutual antipathy? I wrote this story in November, 2009, as a tribute to the aftermath of the tragic events of 26/11, and though it was somewhat dystopian in tone, the moral was to not let a few stray events and the resultant anger destroy our humanity and what we otherwise share so amicably. And, over the years, the story has stayed with me though I kept changing some events, some dialogues and the name over and over again. It once came very close to becoming a feature film, with a certain person expressing keen interest to put it on celluloid with Prosenjit Chatterjee in the lead. Thankfully that didn’t happen, or else I wouldn’t have been able to tell it my way. J
While there is barely any doubt that any act of terrorism has to be dealt with absolutely severity and there is no alternative to death punishment for someone who has killed others, it is imperative for us to not scapegoat innocent civilians in the process. I cannot flinch for a moment to say that someone like Yakub Memon isn’t worth of amnesty, but I do not believe that bombing an Afghanistan ora Syria is the way to defeat either the Taliban / Al-Qaeda or the ISIS.
And that is exactly what RANJISH is all about – the futility of a misplaced sense of revenge. Though it follows the journey of the protagonist, primarily through the eyes of his best friend, and the entire cycle the former goes through – from happiness to loss, from revenge to despair – RANJISH is about what can happen when we let the demon inside us take control.
From the poster and the trailer (which I will share in a few days), a lot of people have assumed that RANJISH bears similarity with Badlapur and Ghajini. While both of them are good movies, especially the former, let me take pride in being clichéd by claiming that RANJISH is very different from these two films. The series releases online on 26 January on the YouTube channel of Humaramovie. Hope you all watch it and enjoy it.
In my next post, I shall share the details of the cast and characters, along with the full schedule of release. Till then, let me leave you with Mehdi Hassan’s version of the song, something I hear rather often.