Among the various filmmakers he admires, director Ranjan Chandel lists Martin Scorsese as his biggest influence. It’s easy to see why. Bamfaad, Ranjan’s debut feature streaming on ZEE5, is a brash, aggressive love story unfolding in Allahabad. There are hot-headed lovers, disloyal best friends, and the general mood is steeped in the crime-and-politics landscape of small-town India. But that’s just one half of the fold, as Ranjan also confesses a deep love for mainstream Hindi cinema.
“My stories are rooted in Indian culture and soil,” says the Kanpur-born filmmaker. “I am attracted most to the Hindi cinema of the ‘70s and ‘80s, especially Amitabh Bachchan’s films.”Ranjan started out as an assistant director in Mumbai. He collaborated with Anurag Kashyap on Raman Raghav 2.0 and Mukkabaaz (also co-writer). In 2018, his short film, Jaan Jigar, won the Best Director Award at the Mumbai International Film Festival. It was around this time that he met Hanzalah Shahid, a young writer from Allahabad with a script. “I was fascinated by the world and characters he had written,” Ranjan says, “It’s a world I know and understand well. The idea was to blend an innocent small-town romance with contemporary details”.
Bamfaad marks the Bollywood debuts of Aditya Rawal and Shalini Pandey. Aditya is the son of veteran actors Paresh Rawal and Swaroop Rawal. His character, Nasir Jamal, is an Allahabad youth who falls in love with Neelam (Shalini). But the girl has a past — which sets them on a collision path with Jigar Fareedi (Vijay Varma), a local crime-lord with political patronage. “Both Nasir and Neelam are impulsive characters,” Ranjan says, “They are both driven by loyalty and would stop at nothing to be with each other. The film sets them on a journey through which their passions are tested.”
Bamfaad was filmed in Allahabad, Kanpur and Lucknow. Workshops were conducted to familiarize actors with the local dialect. “I worked closely with Aditya during the prep,” Ranjan shares, “We’d do readings of Raag Darbari, a famous Hindi novel set in UP. I also asked him to hang out with college students in Kanpur and observe their mannerisms.”
The filmmaker shakes off comparison with Anurag, whose films Gangs of Wasseypur and Mukkabaaz were also violent narratives set in the heartland. “Every filmmaker has his own perspective and life experiences,” Ranjan says, “While I enjoy working with Anurag, it’s not necessary that our canvases are the same. For Bamfaad, he gave me the freedom to go out and make the film how I wanted to.”On his next project post the lockdown, Ranjan shares he’s developing a web-series at the moment. “It’s an emotional drama, mixing both modern and period settings. It will be a massive venture. I’m also finishing the script of my next film.”