Rima Das calls Village Rockstars a tribute to the people and place she comes from. True to it, the film is rooted in the daily rhythms of her village of Chhaygaon in Assam. There is a stillness to the frames in the way the camera lingers, both on the landscape and on people’s faces. Both the film, and the life that it brings alive on the screen, are in no hurry to rush anywhere.
- Director: Rima Das
- Starring: Bhanita Das, Manabendra Das, Basanti Das
- Storyline: 10-year-old Dhunu, growing up in Chhaygaon in Assam, dreams of owning a guitar but has to face the harsh realities of poverty, floods and more
- Run Time: 1 hour 27 minutes
At first look, it seems as if nothing much seems to happen in Chhayagaon. Little ten-year-old Dhunu (Bhanita Das) helps her widowed mother (Basanti Das) at the snacks stall. She makes a guitar for herself out of styrofoam and dreams of strumming a real one some day. Between attending school, harvesting betel nuts, reading comics, learning to swim, playing with her goat Munu, hearing stories from the village elder, saving money for the guitar in the bamboo piggy bank, getting her first period and facing the disastrous floods, there’s a lot actually happening beneath the seemingly static, calm surface.
It’s much like how life is shaped and altered — at times drastically, overnight but usually over a long stretch of time, by the cumulative impact of several, uneventful days.
Right from writing, producing and directing to camera, editing and production design — Das does it all single-handedly. There is something beautifully organic, unadorned and pure about her film-making, deriving most from the “naturalness” of her entire cast of local, untrained, non-professional actors.
Das is never hard-hitting but in her own gentle and indirect way, manages to shine a light on the hardships and harshness, the deprivations and disasters underlying the seemingly idyllic, lyrical rural life. There is matter-of-fact acceptance of the vicissitudes; no wallowing in the tragedies, the lacks and inadequacies.
The most appealing is the persistence and simplicity with which Das subverts gendered expectations and norms. Dhunu is not your typical girl next door, doing the usual girlie things. There is something lovely in Das’ portrayal of the adolescent friendships that transcend the man-woman divides. And, even in the thick of the puberty rituals, the announcement of womanhood that she appears to be getting grounded in, there is the implicit reassurance that Dhunu’s free spirit and spunk won’t ever get contained.