In Conversation with Rima Das
Editor of G Plus, Swapnil Bharali, caught up with writer-director Rima Das who was in Guwahati for the premiere of her much acclaimed movie, ‘Bulbul Can Sing.’ Here are the excerpts from the interview.
Man with the Binoculars, Village Rockstars and now, Bulbul Can Sing. All your movies have English titles but are Assamese movies. My curious first question.
Man with the Binoculars also had an Assamese name, Antardrishti. Now, I come from a very independent production house, and mostly we don’t have manpower and I am handling everything myself. So when I look at it, the market is very global and I’m definitely making Assamese movies.
So for anyone watching, that authenticity is there but when you need to market the film, it is easier when you have an English name and it really helps me reach out to a wider audience. That is one reason. And apart from that, when I was thinking about my first film, Man with the Binoculars, I was able to think of Antardrishti. But for Village Rockstars and Bulbul Can Sing, I did not find the perfect Assamese equivalent for the two titles. And the name Bulbul Can Sing sounded so good too.
Two of your films have been screened at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). What is it like screening your films at such prestigious festivals and what do you get out of it?
It’s great, wonderful. I think it is every filmmaker’s dream that your movie goes to Cannes and Toronto, Berlin and Venice. Fortunately, Village Rockstars was in Toronto, then Bulbul Can Sing was in Toronto, it was in Berlin Film Festival, so it was a big moment for us. Going there, it’s mainly a networking event. Going to Cannes, Toronto, Sundance, Berlin and Venice, they have a big co-production market and you can meet a lot of different people from different countries. So you also meet like-minded people and great audience and also, they have big theatres, where people come in and appreciate your work and applaud. It is lots of energy and even if I am not there as a presenter, like this time I was in Toronto but I like the energy. It always inspires me to make another film.
Arnali Das, Bonita Thakuriya, Manoranjan Das. These are not professional actors. What is it like to direct such people? How easy or difficult is it to extract performances?
It’s not difficult or easy. It is your belief and your vision and I like non-professional actors because they don’t judge you and they completely surrender. The trust factor is there and that really helps me. In Bulbul Can Sing, Pakija Begum also did a role and she is a professional actor and it all represents the story.
Village Rockstars took me three and a half years to make and Bulbul Can Sing took me one year. So it is always better with non-professional actors as their availability is easy, they are there. When I’m training them, I don’t look at them as professional or non-professional. In the end, they are human beings and how they emote themselves is important and I like natural acting. So it doesn’t matter.
Tell us a little bit about what we can expect from Bulbul Can Sing.
Bulbul Can Sing is about three friends and their friendship, two girls and a boy, Bulbul, Bani and Suman. Suman was a very challenging character for me. When the audience watches the film, they’ll understand. I hope there are some changes after everyone watches the film and it is also interesting that Prag Cine Awards gave Manoranjan, the actor who plays Suman, the ‘Best Actor’ award and even at Singapore International Film Festival (SIFF), he got the ‘Best Performance- Best Actor,’ so that was very interesting.
So, the movie is about these three friends, their friendship, first love and how they are lost and are finding themselves. It is a beautiful journey. It’s also a very complicated and delicate age, the teenage years, going through those physical changes and we also live in a patriarchal society so they face many problems. There is also a gap between young people and elders. I’m trying to say so many things and this is the age where they are exploring their youth and sexual identity.
What’s next and how about an out-and-out commercial feature film? Is that on your mind?
For me, next I’m working on two-three projects and probably I’m doing to BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) country project from India. One is a short film and that will be a compilation of these BRICS countries. I’m doing the India film, which I’m almost finished with and this movie will be from producers from China. The feature film will be a compilation of the five short films from these five countries and another is a docu-fiction. After that, I’m really excited to shoot my own films and that I think we will start in February. Also, commercial films, yes definitely I want to do commercial films but right now, I’m really enjoying this.