Mumbai, 15 Oct 2017 20:38 IST
Updated: 10 Nov 2017 18:28 IST
Assamese filmmaker Rima Das’s Village Rockstars is one of this year's most special and meaningful films.
Ten-year-old Dhunu lives in the picturesque village of Chahaygaon in Assam. The film, beautifully shot by Rima Das, captures her desires and dreams in an inspiring manner. The filmmaker is also from Chahaygaon and Village Rockstars is a love letter to her hometown.
Dhunu (Bhanita Das) has an ordinary life; she lives in a hut with her widowed mother Basanti (Basanti Das) and older brother Manabendra (Manabendra Das). Despite being poor, the little family makes do. Basanti does plenty of odd jobs and works the family’s fields after her husband’s death.
Both children go to school, but we don’t see much of their interactions there. Instead, the great outdoors is their playground. Dhunu tags along with her brother and other boys, climbing trees and rushing through the fields in all kinds of activities. The women of her neighbourhood try to shame her tomboyish ways, but the fierce Basanti shuts them down, allowing Dhunu to spend time with her friends.
The ragtag group of children desires to form a rock band with Dhunu leading them on. They make their own instruments out of leftover things; Dhunu shapes a guitar out of Styrofoam and colours it with shiny paper. Her eventual goal is to own a guitar and she asks her mother for one.
But before that, there are some obstacles to overcome. Floods hit the region and the sequence with water surrounding them on all sides is overwhelming. The annual devastation is too much to bear and yet life continues as usual.
As they survey their fields in a boat, Dhunu asks her mother why she continues farming if the floods destroy their crops every year? Her poignant answer: “Work is worship. Hard work is the only thing we know to do.”
Rima Das, who hasn't attended film school, was a one-woman crew on this film. She wrote, edited, filmed, produced and directed Village Rockstars and in no frame does the film feel amateurish. It is incredibly polished and real. There isn't much by way of storyline, yet the film moves so naturally as if by design. The characters' desires, wants and frustrations come out in spades.
Bhanita Das, who is the director's cousin, is a real find. She is the determined, spunky heroine we all need. But I was more moved by Basanti, who encourages her daughter every step of the way, even when she wants a guitar. Dhunu’s mother is her champion, wanting her to learn swimming so that she does not drown in the floods, not curbing her inner spirit, and, more importantly, supporting her dreams.
In Village Rockstars, it is so refreshing to watch this uplifting story of a young girl in poverty, shown in a loving and positive light. The relationship between mother and daughter is one of love and affection and practically glows on screen.
Can you capture happiness? Village Rockstars can make you believe you can, if you really want to. It is truly one of 2017’s most special films, don’t miss it.
Village Rockstars was screened at the 19th MAMI Mumbai Film Festival on 14 October 2017.