She wanted to spread joyousness and stir a spirit of wonder in her readers. Her efforts were successful to make children see the world around them as something magical and beautiful.
Soukarya Ghosal is a talented graphic designer and animation specialist. But his creative urges triggered him to push the envelope and step into directing films. His first film, Pendulum took viewers by surprise as it brought in surrealistic elements into a modern story.
His full-length feature film Load Shedding that explored the awakening of desire in a teenager also met with much appreciation. Rainbow Jelly is his third film, scheduled for release on 25 May. Excerpts from an interview with Ghosal:
Q. Let us go into flashback mode for Pendulum. What was the film all about?
The film was based on my own story and script. I tried to explore how time defines its distinct language, culture and discipline or the lack of it. Time is the hero of my film, so it forms a collage of lives of different people in Kolkata.
Pendulum was a slice-of-life film, which deals with a motley of people from different walks of life spanning across socio-economic division into class and status.
Q. And what is Rainbow Jelly all about?
It is basically a food fantasy story that revolves round a young boy with marginal IQ whose life changes dramatically when he begins to understand the different tastes that fill the taste buds and have varied reactions on people who savour them.
Q. Why this strange title Rainbow Jelly?
Jelly is something every child knows and likes. Rainbow, with its seven colours, brings hope and integrity, especially for children who are very fond of it. This food fantasy revolves around the special child Ghoton, who is an orphan mistreated and abused by his maternal uncle, and rainbow jelly holds the secret to his freedom.
That’s why I decided to call it Rainbow Jelly. I also feel that by appealing to the mainstream audience, the film might also carry an empathetic note for special children.
Q. You have mentioned that Rainbow Jelly is your personal tribute to two great writers of children stories — Satyajit Ray and Leela Majumdar. How do you explain this?
I began my career as graphic designer and illustrator in a mainstream Bengali magazine. I got hooked to the designs and illustration Ray did for Sandesh. The visuals of Rainbow Jelly have tried to match the essence of Ray’s illustrations.
Leela Majumdar is the author who had the biggest impact on me from childhood. I feel that no other author has been able to journey into the mind of a child the way she has. So, we’ve dedicated the film to her.
I have discovered that when we read a story around children written by Leela Majumdar, I can immediately connect to a child speaking and thinking.
That is what I modelled Ghoton on. When you see Ghoton in the film, you would easily relate to slices of your own childhood or it would somehow tug at the child still residing inside you.
Q. The protagonist of your film is shown to be a special child with marginal IQ who has been thrown out of a mainstream school. How did you make Mahabroto Basu play the role so well and with so much conviction?
We scouted around looking for the right boy to play Ghoton — a boy with just the kind of look in his eyes that would fit into the character. After a lot of scouting around, we met this boy of 13. He fought with neurological diseases and was struck by septicaemia an hour after he was born.
He mugged the entire script by simply listening to it. We used the smiley method to elicit the right emotions on screen. We did a three-month workshop with him and shot the film in 16 days flat.
He has done a splendid job — his body language, the look in his eyes, his manner of speech, is just as I had conceived for Ghoton in my story. He used to go to a special school earlier but now he goes to a mainstream school.
Q. How about the rest of the cast?
I was producing the film myself as I could not get a producer. So, I had decided that I will not take a starry cast, which my story does not really demand. I have taken wonderful actors who are committed to whatever character they are given — Shantilal Mukherjee is Anadi, the good-natured guy who runs his tea-shop in the corner and likes Ghoton.
Then Koushik Sen plays Ghoton’s terrible uncle who not only abuses and tortures him but also keeps him hungry. I felt Sreelekha Mitra would suit Pori Pishi to the tee. Damini Bose has a cameo but she has done it very well.
Another discovery of mine is the little girl who plays Poppins. Her name is Anumedha Banerjee and she is a wonderful find too.
Q. You have said that your studies in Ayurveda also formed a trigger for the story so far as the magic realism around food and taste goes. Can you explain this?
It has been an interesting journey for me. Ayurveda says, “Don’t make medicine your food; make food your medicine.” We have seven tastes like — sweet, sour, salty, spicy, pungent, astringent and bitter.
Medical science went on to link it to hormones. Besides, Ayurveda also goes on to state that our seven chakras of consciousness are of seven colours, which have a deep connection with seven tastes in food.
That is why I have combined seven colours with seven tastes. Seven is a magic number according to Indian mythology. We have seven tastes, seven colours, seven notes in music, seven planes of consciousness et al.
Q. Has your background as a graphic designer, artist and cartoonist helped you as a filmmaker?
It has certainly helped me in many ways. You will find some animation in the film, which I have done myself. Many of the drawings in the film that Ghoton does are also my handiwork. I have also designed the poster, which is getting appreciation on social media just as the trailer is.
The fondness for magic realism also stems into art I guess. Thanks to Shri Venkatesh Films for taking on the distribution of Rainbow Jelly. Alok Maity is the cinematographer; Arghyakamal Mitra has edited the film while Nabarun Bose has done the music.