Born in Rajbiraj Saptari, the debutant movie director of “Rambhajan Jindabad”, Ranjeet Gupta, has already left an indelible mark in Bollywood. The journey of Ranjeet from Rajbiraj to Mayanagari aka Mumbai is an inspiring ode of struggle, perseverance and a desire to accomplish one’s dream.
Ranjeet recalls his first step towards Mayanagari was greeted with discouragement as an unachievable feat. In year 2003, when Uditnarayan was visiting his ancestral home Vardah in Saptari, he went to meet him to get advice on his prospects to going to Mumbai. After waiting for hours, he finally got an audience with Uditnarayan. Although the meeting was not very encouraging as Uditnarayan cautioned him against going to Mumbai, instead of being discouraged Ranjeet became even more resolved to struggle. Uditnarayan’s concern were based on work culture and the ground reality. Bollywooed is known for its nepotism and resistance to newcomers. And for an individual from a small town of Rajbiraj, it was indeed a far-fetched unrealistic dream. But it did not bother Ranjeet, he was determined to do what it takes him to become what he wants to become.
Before starting his journey to Mumbai, he took a detour to Kathmandu, Kallywood. In Kallywood he worked with Santosh Pant. And while in Kathmandu, he managed to meet various Bollywood honchos like Devanand, and Govinda etc. Most of Bollywood people encouraged him to come to Mumbai and struggle. After grooming himself in Kallywood, Ranjeet took his train to Kurla Station, Mumbai. His contact person in Mumbai was one Mr. Sanjay Jha, a frined’s brother and nothing to do with Bollywood. His family was with him and fully supported his decision to go to Mumbai. Without family’s support it would not have been possible, he recalls. Especially his elder brother always encouraged him and also supported him monetarily.
The reals struggle started. Even the Hindi language accent in Mumbai was different, so he had to re-learn Hindi in Mumbaiya accent. Most of Bollywood team worked as a closed-group and it was almost impossible to get an entry in the group. For a year he kept roaming and trying to get place in any such groups but there was no taker for a Rajbiraj boy. If you don’t have a godfather or a connection, you can’t even get work. With time now the talent is being respected, but back in those days, the doors were tight-closed for the newcomers. He got to meet one Mr. Anjani, who was from Bihar, and he treated him like his own brother. Ranjeet recalls his long chats in Maithali, a language widely spoken in Bihar and southern plains of Nepal, which made them close. Finally Anjali managed Ranjeet a job in setting department. Although it sound fancy, the work of setting department is to manage the set, like house servant. It’s a department even the newcomers do not want to work. But for Ranjeet, it was the entrance door for Bollywood and looking back, he’s proud to take the door. Thus, his journey started as a servant in Bollywood towards becoming a director. Assistant director is also called as “Thankless Job” in industry, as there’s very less money and too much work. It’s analogues to low paid internship.
While working in the setting department, Ranjeet met a young director and told him about his aspirations to become an assistant-director. The young director apathetically replied, “there’s no money in assistant-direction.. You’re earning Rs. 200 per day in setting department, and you’ll be earning only Rs. 50 per day as an assistant director”. But for Ranjeet it was another step towards his dream. He happily accepted this offer of low pay. During the very time he came to know that Imitaz Ali was forming his group and he rushed to ask for an entrance. He became good friends with Imitaz Ali’s brother, Aarif Ali. Even today, Imitaz Ali team people treat me like their small brother. He also worked with Anurag Kashyap. The journey continued, after that he entered Balaji Telefilms as an assistant director.
Life was hard as a low paid assistant director. He used to stay with eight people in a small room, trying to save residence bills. At one point of time, he even didn’t have money to attend his grandmother’s funeral. It was a very painful situation. “When I look back, it was totally worth it.”, recalls Ranjeet. But life does not remain same for strugglers.
Ranjeet got his first directional debut in a Marathi sitcom, “Kulbaddhu”. Although it was a short instinct of 5 months, he made a mark and was well appreciated for his hard work. He got a good break as a director for a Hindi tele-serial, “Agle Janam Mohe Betiya Hi Kijiyo”. It was a big show and this tele-serial also got the “Best-Teleseiral award”. Till now, he has done 14 serials such as, “Phulwa”, “Bade Achchhe Lagte Hai”, “Officer Betia”, “Ek Duje Ke Waaste”, “Jana Na Dil Se Dur”, and “Mata ki Chauwaki” etc. He also directed YouTube channel web-series very, “CM CM hota hai”, a 10 minute sitcoms revolving around a common man (CM) who becomes a chief minister (CM) and the challenges he faces. He was established as a director of TV-serials, and it was time to move on.
Finally, Ranjeet got an opportunity to direct a movie, “Rambhajan Jindbaad” with veteran actor Mr. Omprakash Puri, affectionaly known as Om Puri. Unfortunately, Om Puri passed away after completing this movie and in his tribute the last movie by Om Puri is renamed to, “Omprakash Jindabaad”. Aftar a battle with censor board, the movie got an A certificate and will be released tentatively after June. Various Indian newspapers have given critical review of the movie and claimed that it is one of the most controversial movie of 2017. Ranjeet has already established himself as a director. But this is not the end, this is the beginning of the journey of the director Ranjeet.
“Although it seems as a far-fetched dream, I’ve a desire to make movies on Madheshi history and culture. And I always encourage Madheshi youths to use the YouTube and online platforms to make short movies and upload it” quips Ranjeet.
“This is my journey my friend.” Ranjeet exclaimed nostalgically.