Capturing the essence

Rima Das is an Assamese filmmaker who trudged a lonely road to tell the story of her village with a hand-held camera. Nobody imagined that the film would earn her the National Award. 

How did it feel to win the award for ‘Village Rockstars’, 30 years after the first Assamese film ‘Halodhia Choraye Baodhan Khai’ by Jahnu Barua won it?

When I made Village Rockstars, I knew the film would go places, but winning the National Award — well, that is something! I am over the moon. Little did I know that an honour like this was going to come to me.   

Tell us about the film’s theme and actors, who you sourced from your village.

Village Rockstars is a film about the dreams and fun that children have. My goal was to showcase their intelligence and imagination. It is set in rural Assam. The innocence, the way of life, hardship and the challenges associated with villages, natural disasters, all come into play while telling the story of a girl who decides that she would set up a rock band and dreams of owning a guitar. The actors in the film are first-timers, my neighbourhood kids and their family members have played various roles. I came across these children when I was shooting my first film, Man With the Binoculars. They were playing fake instruments at a local gathering. I casually told them I wanted to make a movie with them and they wouldn’t stop following me.  

What drove you to make films, that too without any formal schooling in film or experience? 

Necessity, I guess. I ran out of all my savings while making my first film. But my love for cinema and the idea I had while observing the children meant that there was no time to waste. I could either wait for financing and lose the opportunity, or pick up my camera and start shooting. My cousin Mallika helped me during the shoot. I was adamant about not having external producers. I was not only possessive about my film, but I also knew I needed the freedom to follow my vision without compromising my script. My independence, creativity has helped me make the film alone. 

‘The Man with the Binoculars’ and ‘Village Rockstars’ are all about human dreams and desires, why is this theme so special to you?   

I guess human behaviour intrigues me. I try to unfold layers of emotions through silence and words. While doing so, I have understood that dreams and desires are universal and can be narrated beyond the language barrier. 

Can one characterise your film as feminist and political, as you seem to have taken subtle stands on issues?

I try to narrate my stories in an authentic way. The reality of our existence includes these matters and can’t be avoided. I let the audience decide for themselves.

When did you change your mind to become a filmmaker? Have your experiences as an actor helped you in making films? 

In Mumbai, I got exposed to the larger film universe and my interest veered towards filmmaking. The actor in me influences the writing of the film, it is driven by the physical manifestation of the emotions rather than their verbalisation. My films are peppered with a lot of silences that lets the viewers breathe in their own feelings and understand themselves through it.

 

You are quite attached to rural Assam. Do you plan to continue making films in familiar territory or do you want to give Bollywood a try? 

 I’d like to make different kinds of films. Each film is an opportunity to learn and try things out. Making films in Assam and the Northeast will be a priority though. 

You produced, wrote, directed, handled the casting, costumes and production design of the film. Will you continue to wear many hats or do you plan to collaborate for your next venture?

I am currently in discussion with a few production houses who have shown interest. So, I may not have to wear all these hats. While on my third feature, a teenage love story, I am still wearing them, as I have a film to complete.  Village Rockstars gave me the confidence and freedom to be a filmmaker in my own right. It’s an experience that will hold me in good stead for the rest of my career. 

 

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Capturing the essence

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