Self-Taught Filmmaker’s ‘Village Rockstars’ Wins Best Feature Film at National Film Awards

Assamese director Rima Das’ second regional film wins the award for best feature film at the National Film Awards 2018, making it the first time in 29 years that an Assamese film has won the award.

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Rima Das is the one-woman crew behind the endearing Assamese film Village Rockstars, which has been winning hearts across the globe since it released across film festivals. Das has single-handedly written, directed, produced and designed the film. Her only companions in the process were her younger college-going cousin and the kids who acted in the film. In a shining example of human feat, Village Rockstars has today received the Swarna Kamal, which goes to the best feature film, at the 65th National Film Awards held on April 13.Das also received the award for Best Editing, and child actress Bhanita Das was recognized as Best Child Artist. The film has also been part of Toronto International Film Festival and the Dharamshala International Film Festival. At the Mumbai International Film Festival 2017, it bagged three awards.

Regional films are often so rich in content and made with honesty. So is the case with Village Rockstars. During a visit to her village Chhaygaon in Assam, Das saw a group of children playing with improvised instruments. This gave her the idea to make a film around this theme, on a topic that rings with positivity, hope and desire, even in the worst of circumstances. Dhunu, the 10-year-old female protagonist of the film, dreams of owning an electric guitar. Growing up in the village, in deprivation, she needs to save money for her dream while overcoming the hostility of the environment she’s in. The film challenges gender stereotypes, and people are appreciating it for its honesty and originality.

In an interview with film critic Anupama Chopra, Das shared her experiences with the kind of honesty that conveyed her passion towards filmmaking. “I was working singlehandedly on this film,” she said. “I knew what I wanted to showcase, hence I worked alone to make the kind of film I really want.” Das believes that each film she makes is not just a product, but a piece of art that is very dear and intimate to her. On her website, she remarks that the children who acted in the film became part of her family and life,“They (would) race up to take note of the next day’s shooting schedule and there were times when they would drag me from bed to catch the first light of sunrise!”

Das often speaks about her failed career as an actor. She came to Mumbai to become an actor, but during the process, she got exposed to the other side of cinema – filmmaking. This has now become her passion. In one of her interviews, she stated, “I grew up watching movies and that is my inspiration.” With no formal tutelage and only her sense of wonder in tow, she learnt the process of filmmaking bit by bit. Das’ first film Man with the Binoculars, was also widely acclaimed, making a mark in many international film festivals.

Das aspires to make more films in her own village and, in fact, she has already begun making her third film, which revolves around the tale of a teenage romance.

If you are a movie buff and admire deep-rooted, regionally influenced cinema, Village Rockstars must make it to your watch-list.

Original photos: Rima Das & Village Rockstars

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