Films that Made Me - Pradeep Ranganathan: I follow Raj Kumar Hirani's formula
The Comali and Love Today filmmaker recalls five childhood favourites that helped him find his style of filmmaking
Back to the Future (1985)
I discovered the film through a dubbed version on TV as a kid and found it quite exciting. Looking back, Back to the Future is the base for the story and screenplay structure I follow. Before beginning work on my movies, I revisit this film. The set-up, mid-point, pay-off, and climax are beautifully defined. Even the set-up is crafted intelligently, and all the important aspects are introduced to us within the first 20 minutes before getting to the primary plot. This is what I take away from this fun film. In fact, when I started Comali, I wanted to do a time-travel film like Back to the Future, and coma, as an element, helped me bridge the timelines practically.
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
This film is every kid’s fantasy. From traveling alone to New York, staying in a luxury hotel, gorging on many scoops of chocolate ice cream... everything about the film was pure joy. You can point out the logical loopholes and question certain elements in it, but I don’t even want to think about them! When this kid was having the time of his life in a star hotel, it made me so happy as if I was enjoying the luxuries. Such was the excitement. I watched the film a few years back and it instantly transported me back to my childhood. Even thinking about it makes me happy.
Apoorva Sagodharargal (1989)
Apoorva Sagodharargal defined the commercial film formula that I love. It is not a run-of-the-mill commercial film. It has novelty. The story has space for a lot of inventiveness. Just the fact that Kamal plays a dwarf in the film created an aura of excitement around it. On the other hand, it’s heavy on emotions too—from avenging the death of his father to the regret that the world has rejected him. It was such a unique movie. It has all the trappings of a perfect masala outing but it is executed with a lot of creativity. Apoorva Sagodharargal taught me the possibility that we can try something different within the structure of a commercial outing.
This is a film that has remained with me for its sheer scale and emotions. The fact that James Cameron and his team managed to pull it off decades ago still makes me go ‘wow.’ It is a film I go to whenever I am low. Even a transition from one scene to the other is done with so much finesse. Even in the present day, it is a challenge to cut from one scene to another when the focus remains on a single character in the frame. But Titanic featured one such beautiful transition where we see Rose’s younger self become her present-day older self. I found zero flaws in it while watching the film just a month back. Just imagine the efforts that must have gone into perfecting it. Titanic showed us the importance of perseverance, and the need to constantly strive for perfection.
3 Idiots (2009)
3 Idiots is special for two reasons. Firstly, it seamlessly interweaved two stories in the screenplay—one with a definitive goal and the other without any particular destination. Secondly, for its ability to blend comedy with emotion perfectly. Be it his Munna Bhai series or PK, I think Raj Kumar Hirani is a master at introducing intense emotions in his comedies too. Likewise, 3 Idiots will make you laugh, and of course, cry. Actually, Comali too follows a similar path. Both the comedy and emotions in it are extreme. Raj Kumar Hirani’s films fall under the subgenre of laugh-cry drama, and I follow that too.