Remembrance, Redemption, and 'Rainbow Fields'; Bidyut Kotoky discusses his very personal historical film
Bidyut Kotoky's ‘Xhoixoboite Dhemalite’ (Rainbow Fields) is all set to premiere at Cinema Village, New York as part of the 7th Annual Winter Film Awards International Film Festival.
Set against the backdrop of bitter intolerance and terrible violence in the Indian state of Assam in the 1980s, this semi-autobiographical tale is told through the eyes of children impacted by events they don't fully understand. The children's playtime games lead to an incident that changes them forever and years later as adults they must grapple with coming to terms with what had happened and with themselves. First-rate acting, notably by Victor Banerjee and the child actors, added with rich cinematography add depth to the film.
The film features Victor Banerjee, Dipannita Sharma, Nakul Vaid, Naved Aslan and Nipon Goswami among others. However, new young actors play the most crucial parts.
Earlier, the film was appreciated at the screening at International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa. It also won the best foreign film award in the Hollywood International Cinefest and the maiden edition of Catoosa Country Film Festival in the US.
Tell us a little bit about your background and what led you to tell this particular story about a violent time in the history of Assam, India.
I was born and brought up in Assam. You can take a boy out of Assam, but you can’t take Assam out of the boy. A part of my soul remained in that evergreen land. Ever since childhood, I dreamed of being a filmmaker. And finally when I got the chance to live my dream, I didn’t have to look far for the inspiration of my films. I strongly believe that if we don’t learn from our history, we are condemned to repeat it. I grew up in a violent period of Assam history (1980s) and it did disturb my impressionable mind greatly and it also disturbs me to find that almost nobody wants to visit that period of Assam’s history in literature or in films.
What movies and other resources did you consult to prepare to make this film?
For this particular film, I just had to take a trip down memory lane. The film is inspired by true incidents and a lot of it is semi-autobiographical in nature.
Was making the film in Assamese an important decision?
I strongly believe that every film decides its own language. In the case of Rainbow Fields, I’m convinced that the only language in which this film could have been made is Assamese. But I was not looking at making an "Assamese film" so to say – I am making a film for the global audience in the Assamese language. I strongly believe that the color of emotions is the same across the world and everyone can relate to those emotions.
Did making the film in Assamese help attract the likes of Victor Banerjee and Amrit Pritam, who are tops in their fields and also associated with Assam?
I would like to believe that it is the content of the film that attracted them. Yes, the fact that both of them are strongly connected to the land did help. And knowing the current state of the Assamese film industry, both of them did the film without bothering to charge even a fraction of their market price!
For the child roles, your young cast is quite compelling. What was the casting process for them like?
We did an extensive audition and to a large extent depended on my gut feeling while finalizing the selection. Of course, we didn’t put any emphasis on their previous acting experience. In fact, the challenge was to make them not to "act" but to "react". And I did have a couple of excellent teachers with me – Tapan Baruah and Jyoti Narayan Nath – who did an extensive workshop with the young cast.
Your story touched on the class differences that prevailed in the 1980s. Would you say these differences manifest themselves similarly today as they did in the 80s when the story took place, or have they changed?
Unfortunately, the more things change, the more they remain the same. In my film, I made an effort to show that we react subconsciously without realizing the actual impact and I guess across the world, things are not very different. At times, it could be the economic background or the color of one’s skin, but the results remain the same. But yes, I’m an eternal optimist and I strongly believe that things will change for the better.
Your film has a soft style and quiet beauty. How did you achieve this?
I wanted to make a film about violence without showing bloodshed – a film which the kids can enjoy at their level and which will give some food for thought to grown-ups too. So, I was consciously trying to achieve these characteristics.
What were some of the challenges faced while making this movie?
The main challenges were financial in nature. As Assam doesn’t have a sustainable film industry, getting finances for the film was a big challenge. We had to operate within a shoe-string budget, with no buffer whatsoever. We were, however, determined not to allow this constraint to affect the final look of our film – if we wanted to take this story to the outside world, it is imperative that technically we make a world class product.
What do you want the viewers to take away from your film?
If we say that we don’t own this world but borrowed it from our children, then what kind of world are we leaving behind for them? This question used to haunt me strongly, especially after my daughter came in to my life four years back. Well, I’m under no illusion that my film will change the world, but I needed to make this film if I wanted to look straight into the eyes of my daughter, unflinchingly.
Do you have a future movie project currently being planned?
I do have a few scripts ready. Given a choice, I would like to concentrate on A Shot in the Dark – a story about how a game of soccer got a bunch of extremists back to the mainstream.