Interview Assam

IFFI 2017: Liberated by response to Village Rockstars, says director Rima Das

The director speaks about her characters, her struggle, the response to her work, and much more.

The team of Village Rockstars at IFFI 2017, Goa. Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Blessy Chettiar

Village Rockstars is a labour of love. After being in production for four years, the film has been making the rounds of festivals around the world. It was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year, then screened at the Mumbai Film Festival in October, and is now part of the Indian Panorama at the 48th International Film Festival of India (IFFI).

Village Rockstars is also among the five Indian films chosen for the Black Nights Film Festival in Estonia, which is on till 3 December.

Made by a one-woman army called Rima Das, the Assamese film was received well for its effortless portrayal of the hopes and aspirations of a young girl Dhunu (played by Rima's cousin Bhanita Das). Set in a picturesque Assamese village, the film realistically captures emotions like happiness and love in their purest form. The bunch of children in Village Rockstars could unknowingly impart a valuable lesson or two in finding happiness no matter what the circumstances.

Bhanita Das (wearing the straw hat) in a scene from Village Rockstars

The beautifully composed shots of nature at its best — rain, floods, fields, sunsets or even the characters just lying down on the grass — are often poetic. It is hard to believe Rima Das shot the film on a Canon 5D camera.

Village Rockstars review: This little wannabe guitarist is a shining star

After Village Rockstars was screened at IFFI 2017, caught up with the director to speak about her characters, her struggle, the response to her work, and much more. Excerpts from the interview:

Your mother said on the red carpet that you were a naughty child and that it’s like you have put yourself in the film. How much of Village Rockstars is autobiographical?

It is not autobiographical. Only that I can relate to her [Dhunu's] character — her spirit, the carelessness. I also used to hang out with boys climbing trees, so all those activities are from my life. But the story is nowhere related to my life.

Village Rockstars took four long years to be made and screened. What has been your struggle through these years?

You can just watch the film and you can imagine the struggle... it was a lot of hard work, especially to handle everything like the problem of lights and the other technical issues. When you are doing everything alone with one small camera, recording the sound and everything, it is quite a struggle.

The end credits had Rima Das written all over it. You have done the cinematography, art direction, production design, costumes, writing, screenplay, direction and also produced the film. It was a veritable one-woman show all the way. How proud are you of your product?

I wouldn’t say proud. I feel overwhelmed. I expected that it would probably go to some good festivals. But looking at the response, it feels really amazing.

I wanted to make something and the best thing is that today I feel liberated. I feel like Village Rockstars really gave me the courage to go and move on to the next step.

Filmmaker Rima Das

‘I made a film alone’ is not a proud feeling but a great one because as an independent filmmaker you know how much you need to struggle to get funding and support. When I know that I can make a film alone, that is the best thing. For your next you know you can do it. Otherwise you always feel some insecurity about funding, the release, and many other things. But this film liberated me from all kinds of issues that scared me earlier.

Are you working on your next film already?

Yes, I am working on a teenage love story.

When can we expect this film?

If everything goes well, and we have the blessings of god, probably next year.

What is your take on the current scene in Assamese cinema?

It’s doing great. After digital medium's coming up, it’s been doing great. Earlier, there was a huge funding problem because you didn’t know how you were going to get back the money, etc. After the digital boom, many Assamese filmmakers are coming forward to make films.

Village Rockstars has been received so well, considering it took so long to be made. Do you feel your journey could be an inspiration? Do you feel a sense of responsibility towards other filmmakers?

Talking about responsibility, you cannot force anyone to make something. If my work is inspiring them, then it is great. But I am just leaving it to them, how they want to take it. Somewhere, looking at the response, people coming up to me for the last two months, I feel people are inspired. The best takeway for them is that even if you have less money you can make a film.

Related topics