From a small village to National Awards – the story of Rima Das and her 'Rockstars'
36 year old Rima Das is today one of the most trending names in the film industry. Her journey from a small village of Assam to the National Film Awards is a big tale of inspiration. Her film “Village Rockstars” has broken all records of Assamese regional films and has won the hearts of people across nations. It recently bagged the Best Feature Film award in the National Film Awards 2018.
Village Rockstars was conceived and shot in a sleepy village of Assam and revolves around the lives of the young children of the village and their dream of becoming rockstars one day.
The film was shot with a handheld camera by a woman who had no formal training or experience in films. After completing her masters, Rima went to Mumbai to pursue her dream of a career in movies. She started her career with movie editing. However, her passion for stories and films could not keep her away from what has become her identity today.
The story of Village Rockstars happened spontaneously to Rima. As she would say, “Sometimes, stories just come to you.”
The story is of a 10 year old girl Dhunu living in a remote village of Assam, battling against the stereotypes and poverty to own her own guitar and form a rock band. Dhunu is alive in her passion for music and is one who dazzles with confidence through her own convictions. Rima is not the filmmaker who believes in mainstream category of films. She takes pride in the fact that her simple story has itself framed a mainstream theme today.
The cast of the film comprises a group of young children who are non-actors, sources from the village of Kalardiya in Assam. A total of 40-50 children have contributed to the film; seven of who play the lead characters. The character of Dhunu is portrayed by Bhanita Das. Bhanita has been original throughout the film and has added to the beauty of the storyline that Rima envisaged to portray. Bhanita won the Best Child Artist Award at the National film Awards 2018.
The making of the film, by itself, is as fascinating as the story. Rima started working on the film in 2014. It took her four long years to give the global audience a film that would reverberate in the minds of all for years to come. When Rima was shooting for her film ‘Man With Binoculars’, she came across a group of children in Chaygaon, performing at a Bihu function, with a guitar shaped instrument. It was then that the idea of Village Rockstars came to her; over the years, the story just evolved. The main actors of the film are the children who performed at the function. They worked with Rima under the sky, in the fields, and even when it rained. “Working with the children was like re-living my own childhood. Children are original by nature. I had to be a child with them all along, had to be friendly with them and understand their psychology. I never forced them or asked them to move out from their original individuality,” said Rima.
The best thing about the film is the fact that it is original. From the backdrop to the language and lifestyle, the film that is shot in Chaygaon, beautifully holds the authenticity of the village. Rima says, “I didn’t want to compromise on the real faces. If I had gone on to teach something new to any person involved in the film, I would have lost the originality of the film. Authenticity reaches out to people more easily and that’s what I believe. If I shoot a film in upper Assam and ask my characters to portray the lifestyle of those living in the lower Assam, can they be original? If the characters are not comfortable with the language and culture of the film, the story loses its depth.”
Village Rockstars is all about unseen locations, authentic cast, happiness in little moments and pure story telling.
Rima has neither gone to any film school nor was she being assisted by anyone in the film. She has written, directed, produced, edited and shot the movie, all alone.
Rima always dreamt of becoming an actor. “I only remember the plays where I acted when during my school days,” she recalls. She is a self taught artist who genuinely multitasked in her film. With the help of tutorials and videos on the internet, Rima educated herself in the art of cinema. “I was overwhelmed when the film was selected for Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) but I wasn’t surprised. I always had the belief that if I work myself for the film and give my 100 percent, I will have the complete liberty to do justice to my story,” added Rima.
Today Assam, as well as the nation, is aware of her work. She is the living epitome of the fact that ‘persistence is the key to success.’ It is not often that the global audience gets to hear the name of Assam for cinema. Rima broke all the barriers and all the stereotypes to take Assamese cinema to a new level. “If you think you can do it, you can do it. If you really want to achieve success, you need to go through pain. Sometimes, the pain could last for months and even years. Stay true to your vision; do not comprise. If you escape from the hard work, you will get lost in the track,” is what the young filmmaker has to say to the aspiring artists.
The filmmaker has already started working for her next film, which will be her third film in her village. The film will revolve around a teenage love story and will again be single-handedly handled by Rima.