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Village Rockstars: The Film That Has Swept the National Awards

Here’s how ‘Village Rockstars’, the small film from Assam swept the National Film Awards. 

Published
Cinema
3 min read
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Video Input: Anjana Dutta
Video Editor:
Kunal Mehra

This year’s best feature film at the National Awards – Assamese film ‘Village Rockstars’ – clearly drives home two points.

  • It’s a moment of triumph for a small independent film from the northeast.
  • Passion & emotion plays a leading role in filmmaking. Budget, stars, scale and craft are all secondary.

A One-Woman Show

What Rima Das, the director of ‘Village Rockstars’, has achieved is almost unheard of in Indian cinema. Because she didn’t have the wherewithal to make a film with a big crew, she decided to do it all alone. Rima is the producer, director, writer, cinematographer, editor and production designer of the film.

Rima Das at her home in Chhaygaon, Assam.
Rima Das at her home in Chhaygaon, Assam.
(Photo: The Quint)

It’s truly a one-woman show. She was so convinced about the story she wanted to tell that doing it alone hardly ever bothered her – the only person supporting her in the crew was her sister Mallika Das.

The craft and crew size is important. But filmmaking is not just about the craft. It is about the story you want to tell. About the emotion you want to convey. It is the emotion that eventually connects with the audience.
Rima Das, Filmmaker, ‘Village Rockstars’   

Four Years of Filming With Family

‘Village Rockstars’ is a film about a little girl in a village in Assam who wants to own a guitar and form a band. It was shot in Chhaygaon, a village near Guwahati. The cast is made up of untrained actors, mostly local villagers. The lead role is played by Rima’s cousin, Bhanita Das. Bhanita has won the National Award for the best child actor.

Bhanita Das has won the best-child-actor award at the National Awards.
Bhanita Das has won the best-child-actor award at the National Awards.
(Photo: The Quint)
I was in Class 5 when Rima Di said she wants to make a film with us. Now I am in Class 9. I grew up with the film. Unlike big shoots there was no big crew. It was only my two cousins Rima Di and Mallika Di. So it almost felt like a family project.       
Bhanita Das, Best Child Actor, National Film Awards 2018     
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A Self-Trained Filmmaker

This 36-year-old filmmaker never went to a film school. In 2003, Rima moved to Mumbai from Assam to become an actor. It was during this phase that she was exposed to the works of Satyajit Ray, Akira Kurosawa and Ingmar Bergman.

She realised, just like these greats, she too wanted to tell stories but was not trained to do so. Thus, she embarked on a mission of self-education in cinema.

The child actors of ‘Village Rockstars’ in Chhaygaon, Assam. 
The child actors of ‘Village Rockstars’ in Chhaygaon, Assam. 
(Photo: The Quint)
Quentin Tarantino, James Cameron, Akira Kurosawa, even Christopher Nolan. None of them went to a film school. So I had enough inspiration around. I bought a DSLR and started shooting, experimenting, learning and eventually made few short films.
Rima Das, Filmmaker, ‘Village Rockstars’  

In 2013, she started shooting her first feature film Antardrishti (Man With the Binoculars) on a DSLR camera. Once completed in 2016, it was screened at Cannes Film Festival and Mumbai Film Festival.

‘Village Rockstars’ Rocking it at the National Awards

There are very few parallels of what ‘Village Rockstars’ has achieved at this year’s National Awards. This small independent film from Assam has won the awards for best film, best editing, best location sound, and best child actor.

Now that’s one rockstar of a film.

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