When writer-director Ranjan Chandel moved to Mumbai without any ties, but full of stories, it was a huge leap of faith. But like many others, the City of Dreams has accepted Ranjan, who now lives there with her two cats, and continues to tell emotional stories. His latest web series, Grahan, on Disney + Hotstar, continues to impress audiences.
The call of the heart
After Mukkabaaz, I was looking for a story and came across this novel by Satya Vyas – Chaurasi. It really resonated with me. I took care of other things, when producer Aanand Rai told me that a channel had bought the rights to a book and that I could check. As it should be, they mentioned Bokaro (where the story takes place) and I said quickly, “I’m running it”. One of the main character’s names in the book is Rishi Ranjan, which matches mine; I have the impression that this story chose me! We shot through the pandemic in Lucknow, like in UP we could get permission to shoot. It was as if there was this divine energy working with us and despite a cast of 150 people, we didn’t encounter any Covid issues during the entire shoot. That this film, which takes place against the backdrop of the 1984 riots, is watched and loved, it is a satisfaction for me.
Coming to Bombay
My hometown is a small town called Bindki in the Fatehpur district of Uttar Pradesh. I graduated from Kanpur, did my MBA in Pune and worked in Bangalore. But somehow, I never could relate to the work I was doing. These are the tales that have always fascinated me. If you meet someone from my childhood they will remember me as someone who loved to listen and tell stories. So I saved some money and took the train to Mumbai, also saying goodbye to my life, to start over. As I was getting off at Dadar Station, in a pretty ‘filmed’ way, a friend of mine who was supposed to pick me up didn’t show up, nor did he answer my phone. I checked my phone list and called another friend who lived in Mumbai. He said ‘Ab aa hi gaye ho to chae aao’. I spent time at his place and started going door to door asking them if they were doing any movie related work and if they needed a writer. It took a while, but it was after meeting Anurag Kashyap four years later that I started working regularly. Before Grahan, I directed Bamfaad (2020), co-wrote Mukkabaaz (2017) and Juice (2017). I am in love with Mumbai because it gave me an identity and opened the way for me to tell my stories.
OTT versus cinemas
For directors, filmmakers like myself, who don’t have big budgets and PR gear, OTT works well in two ways. As theaters are closed due to the pandemic, OTT can reach very far. Another is that the length it offers allows you to fully focus on each character, each emotion. In fact, Bamfaad was one of the first films to release on OTT as the country tried to make sense of the lockdown.
Movie theater : Dil Se, Hum Dil By Chuke Sanam; A short film about love and red by Krzysztof Kieslowski.
Songs: O Jogiya and Chori Chori
Authors: Walter Isaacson, Dharamvir Bharati, Manohar Shyam Joshi
When you are not working: I read literature and spend time with my two cats