The creators behind the Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 short discuss their tale of siblings on the run.
Star Wars: Visions Volume 2’s look to global perspectives brought in 88 Pictures, who took the opportunity to highlight Indian culture in “The Bandits of Golak” through music, setting, character design, and more. The seventh episode of Volume 2 follows the story of Force-sensitive Rani and her brother Charuk as they make their way across the desert world of Golak. The siblings have left home in an effort to hide Rani’s abilities from the Empire and face difficulties on their journey to their final destination — a motel at the end of a tense train ride.
When it came to finding a springboard for “The Bandits of Golak,” director Ishan Shukla dug into his own experience. “The direct inspiration comes from some of my personal experiences. From the early concepts, it was clear that having an India-inspired train and a highway dhaba [motel] would make this a memorable and unique spectacle,” Shukla tells StarWars.com. “So with those two pillars in mind, I started retro-fitting the siblings' journey in the script.”
But initial inspiration didn’t end there. Shukla and executive producer Milind D. Shinde both note that their team pulled from the diverse cultures and states of India, as well. “When we had the opportunity to tell our story in Star Wars, we had to stay true to the spirit of Star Wars, but at the same time being able to do justice to some of the pillars of one of the oldest civilizations and cultures we represent,” Shinde says. “Right from the food, costumes, music, locations, our films, we kept these pillars in mind and had our story revolve around these without compromising the true essence of the core of the film.”
All of these cultural elements tie easily into the journey that Rani and Charuk are on, whose sibling relationship stands as the heart of the episode. The 88 Pictures team pulled on their own experiences as siblings in many capacities to maintain that brother and sister dynamic, even as Charuk emerged as a bit of an unlikely hero. “Each one of us have played the role of a sibling at some point of time being a brother, a friend, a mentor, and even a strict teacher,” Shinde notes. “How does everyone relate to the characters and the sibling dynamics was the key. And how does an accidental hero rise up to the occasion, only to realize in the end he had to sacrifice what he fought for throughout?”
“I was always fascinated by the story of a commoner who is thrown in the middle of humongous stakes,” adds Shulka. “So our hero, Charuk, is a simple boy from a farm. No powers, no training, a lot of ignorance about the political situation of the galaxy around him. And then he is thrown into this big menacing world where he has to find the strength himself. For someone like him, the strength only comes from the protective nature that we all develop for our loved ones.”
Those high stakes Shukla mentions are pervasive and all too familiar to Star Wars fans; the threat of ever-present Imperial forces, Inquisitors hunting down people who are Force-sensitive, and the assorted threats to be found in the galaxy at large. As Rani and Charuk make their way toward their destination, those perils continue before culminating in some very tense action scenes — from a transport chase to the final confrontation between Rugal — an older, secret Jedi — and the Inquisitor.
“At first, it was enticing to go heavy on the action and spectacle. But during the storyboard stage we decided to focus more on the siblings,” Shukla says. “The train didn’t have a glass ceiling in the script. It was during the storyboarding that we decided to do a one shot of Rani and Charuk running together in and over the train. That really helped in focusing on them amidst the chaotic action.
“The dhaba, on the other hand, was coming beautifully and it didn’t feel right to hold back on the spectacle there,” Shukla continues. “With the music, the neon, the noisy storm, we just let Rugal and the Inquisitor dance around. And I say dance around because ‘Kalaripattu,’ the fighting style that Rugal is trained in, relies heavily on aerial rolls and twists. So with that music, the choreography felt much more dramatic.”
For Shukla, these two major action sequences build both character and an important sense of danger. “What we tried to do with these set pieces was to make the siblings experience two life-threatening experiences together. We felt it made their bond stronger,” he says. “I think the bittersweet ending wouldn’t have been the same if not for those two scenes.”
That bittersweet ending sees Rani and Charuk saying goodbye, with Rani leaving her brother in order to train as a Jedi. Interestingly, the original idea for the scene had a significant difference. “In the earliest drafts, Charuk and Rani both were going down the tunnel. It felt all right since in the aftermath of Order 66, you might expect a Jedi to be a little lenient towards the children. But as we kept re-writing, we decided to make Rugal a little old school — a go-by-the-books elder,” Shukla says. “This ending made more sense and hit much harder.”
“For me, it's the most touching moment of the film when Charuk gets to know he has to let Rani go and when Rani understands he can’t come with her,” Shinde shares. “I still get choked up when I see this moment. Sacrifice can be emotional, it can be beautiful, it can be heartfelt knowing the other person is going to be safe.”
“We felt it worked far better because it puts the focus back on our unsung hero, Charuk,” Shukla says. “I felt we haven’t seen much of the family stories of the ‘left behind’ relatives, who now have to go back to their normal lives and ‘let go’ of their loved ones. I believe ‘letting go’ makes Charuk the ultimate hero here — the one that resides in all of us in some way or the other.”