{ Page-Title / Story-Title }

Interview Assam

You can't win over everyone, says Assamese actress and dancer Lima Das

The artiste, who is also a practising dental surgeon, rose to fame with her lead role in the 2019 film Aamis.

Dwijiri B Basumatary

Aamis is an Assamese-language feature film directed by Bhaskar Hazarika that came out in 2019 to polarizing reviews. It starred dancer and doctor Lima Das as Nirmali, who falls in love with a young student while also developing an insatiable appetite for human flesh. In spite of the groundbreaking success — and notoriety — of Aamis, which earned Das the Best Actress Award at the Singapore South Asian International Film Festival, she continues to practise as a dental surgeon and occasionally performs Sattriya onstage.

Life in the pandemic has been mostly usual for the artiste. While practising surgery, she also teaches dental surgery as she is an associate professor at the Regional Dental College, Guwahati where she had been working since 2007. These days, conducting online classes and spending time with her son are what have been keeping the multi-hyphenate busy. "Because of the pandemic, there has been a mental and emotional toll on everyone," she said. The part-time dancer insists that one must keep mentally strong and fit during these times. For this reason, Das has taken up gardening as a new hobby.

Das has been dancing since the age of eight and initially, she used to be an Odissi dancer for 25 years. However, the experienced performer switched to the Sattriya dance as she could connect better with it due to its Assamese origin. As an Assamese artist, she also felt a responsibility to represent her own dance form and found it interesting that Sattriya was a five-hundred-year-old tradition.

Although a veteran performer, it was only after appearing in Aamis that she came into wide public recognition. "I always wanted to do at least one good film in my life," she said.

The Aamis star never actively looked for an acting role but director Bhaskar Hazarika was her family friend, and they had discussed doing a documentary together on Sattriya. "It was just a casual thing that we had discussed," she said.

Hazarika was planning to do Aamis and was looking for a lead actor, a new face. He offered her the role so the actress went through the script. "I immediately knew that this was something different that we did not usually see," she recalled. Das agreed to take this role as she could relate to her character Nirmali. "We all find ourselves in dark corners, in situations that we did not prepare for in life. Nirmali is such a character who faced things that she never thought she'd face. And things happened and she did not really deserve that in the first place. I somehow had the gut feeling that this was going to work," Das said.

Das in a scene from Aamis (2019)

When the film was released in 2019, the initial reaction was heavily polarized. "There were many people who liked it. They understood the metaphor of meat and the many layers. But some people did not really like the film. They thought that it was not acceptable. But whether people liked it or not, they were talking about it," she said. Das guesses that the people who did not like the film probably didn’t understand what Aamis was supposed to portray and mean. "But that’s all right. There are films that some people will like and some films that some people will find objectionable. You can’t win over everyone," she said.

Life has changed for Das in some ways since the film was released. She is more widely known and recognized. “I don’t like to live the life of an actor. I just want to be a normal person moving around wherever I want to," the actress said. However, she appreciates the love and recognition that has poured in. “It’s a wonderful feeling. People come and congratulate you and they mean it.”

After essaying the serious role, she wanted to take on a lighter one. Fellow Assamese director Kenny Basumatary then offered her the role in the new web series named Tomar Oppekhyat. The Assamese-language romantic comedy focuses on four different love stories, and one of them stars Das and Basumatary. The actress had watched Basumatary in Suspended Inspector Boro (2018) and found the film fun to watch and agreed to act in the show as a learning experience. “He is a fun and very talented person. He writes, acts and directs,” she said.

In some auditions, Northeasterners are expected to speak bad Hindi, says actor-director Kenny Basumatary

Das has been busy ever since she appeared in the web-series, with future projects lined up to be filmed or released once it is safe. She acted in the short film, Arranged, which was directed by Samujjal Kashyap. Since the short received rave reviews, a sequel titled Arranged 2 is being made, the shooting of which began at the end of July. She has also finished shooting for an upcoming feature, a comedy directed by Kulanandini Mahanta in her directorial debut, where Das makes a guest appearance. Also, she has wrapped up a short film, which is part of an anthology that focuses on the lives of people during the COVID pandemic. “So let’s see whatever comes my way," she said. “I’ll depend upon the script and if I like it, then I’ll definitely do it.”

The part-time actress has not thought about doing Hindi films but she will consider it if any meaty roles come her way. "I have a job here [Assam]. I have a family here," said Das. She plans to work "on and off" as an actress while also practising as a surgeon, maintaining a balance between her passion and profession.

Tomar Oppekhyat is being streamed on Reeldrama.