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Looking at how we can flip women’s condition: Rima Das at Oxfam 'Women In Film' brunch

The filmmaker was one of three jury members for the Oxfam Best Film For Gender Equality present at the 'Women In Film' brunch held at JW Marriott on 28 October 2018.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Sonal Pandya

What a year filmmaker Rima Das is having! After her second feature film, Village Rockstars (2018) premiered last year at the Toronto International Film Festival, the film has gone from Mumbai to Cairo and now Los Angeles as India’s official entry for Best Foreign Film at next year’s Academy Awards.

Last year, Village Rockstars was also nominated and won the Oxfam Best Film For Gender Equality award. This year, Das returns to the award as jury member. We caught up with extremely busy director at the 'Women In Film' brunch where she talked about watching the eight films nominated for this year’s awards.

She said she was looking at films that featured women empowerment. “We are looking at how we can flip the women's condition, in the general sense and [see] strong, different and real women,” Das stated.

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

When asked if she had added pressure now as a jury member, Das replied, “A bit, only because I also have a new film and suddenly this Oscar [entry] happened so because of that my responsibilities are more and more and [I have] lots of work on my plate.”

“But I’m really happy because it’s a new role I’m playing and Oxfam India, I’m glad that they’re creating this awareness,” she told us. “Because most of the films depict women as weak and docile, that always need a hero to save [them]. [They are] objectified and reduced to mostly [their] physical appearance. It’s so nice that in this festival they are collaborating with this gender equality award, so we are looking for strong women and creating this awareness is great.”

Gender sensitivity highlight of brunch for Oxfam Best Film on Gender Equality Award

The filmmaker is also screening her next film at the 20th Mumbai Film Festival, Bulbul Can Sing. She began shooting for it immediately after she finished Village Rockstars. At a question and answer session, Das candidly responded to questions from moderator Bharadwaj Rangan and the audience.

“They are not method actors that they are living the characters,” she said, of the two-three month breaks between shooting. “I love working with them. They trust you and surrender completely.”

Later, she noted that mixing non-professional and professional actors is tough. With her first film, Man with the Binoculars: Antardrishti (2016), she felt a sense of doubt from her crew and the professional actors and therefore decided to use non-professional for her future films.

Bulbul Can Sing review: Beautifully told coming-of-age story from Assam

Furthermore, she revealed that the actor in her also helped her cast during filming.

“I was looking for acting [in Mumbai] for six years. In Assam, I used to be the best actress in school, college, but when I ended up here with lots of training and workshops, this and that, it made me conscious. So what I did with my actors, I became friends [with them]. I gave them lots of freedom. I just made them feel free and tried to understand their characters, not giving them instructions.”

Liberated by response to Village Rockstars, says director Rima Das

Her films may look unscripted, but the filmmaker insisted that she does write down scenes, even if she doesn’t have a bound script.

“With fiction, it is risky. You just cannot put any scenes,” Das said.

The Oxfam Best Film For Gender Equality award will be announced on the last day of the festival, 1 November.

Related topics

MAMI Oxfam Gender Equality Award