“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
Just one day before the commencement of the Bihu festivities, the news of an Assamese movie winning the title of the Best Feature Film at the 65th National Film Awards has come as a pleasant surprise for the entire Assamese community. The movie, Village Rockstars, directed by Rima Das, managed to grab the title for the said community after a gap of 29 years. The movie also bagged the awards for editing, sound recording and the best child artist. Rima Das, a resident of the Chhaygaon village of Assam, did not undergo a formal training in film making and can be considered a self trained genius. She single handedly wrote, directed, produced and edited the entire movie, and given the fact that she had neither trained nor assisted any other movie maker before, makes this achievement even more remarkable. What makes things even more interesting is the fact that the movie was shot by a handheld camera for over a span of four years. Starring Bhanita Das, Basanti Das, Kulada Bhattyacharya, Manabendra Das and Boloram Das, Village Rockstars is woven around Dhunu’s pursuit of an electric guitar in Assam’s Chhayagaon village. The film challenges gender stereotypes in an organic way. The movie was initially screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2017, where the movie managed to have a strong impact among viewers and film critics. It then was screened in the Mumbai Film Festival, after a gap of one month from its first screening, where it won the Golden Gateway Award for the Best Film. The movie was screened across the globe in more than 50 film festivals after its initial success in the Mumbai Film Festival. The movie revolves around the life of a ten year old girl who desires to form a rock band of her own and goes on a quest for an electric guitar within her village. Bhanita Das, who played the protagonist in the movie, left everyone spell-bound and teary eyed with her performance, ultimately sweeping off the award for the Best Child Artist.
A simple tale of ambition and innocence wrapped up in the clutches of hard hitting reality managed to convey its underlying message through the magnificent and true to life direction of Das and acting of little ‘Dhunu’ and her playmates. “I didn’t know there are movies made in Assam that make it to Cannes”, remarked Shekhar Kapur, the Jury head of the awards, prior to the announcement of the winner.
The last movie to be honoured with this title was Jahnu Barua’s ‘Halodhia Choraye Baodhan Khai’ in 1987. Utpal Borpujari’s ‘Ishu’ added to this list of victory by winning the award for the Best Assamese Film. It is indeed a moment of pride and happiness for the Assamese folks, to receive such a joyous gift during the time of Bihu. What a kick-start to a new year. At a time when Assamese film industry is struggling to survive, clinging on to every possible resource and resort, this victory paved the way for many film-makers to brush up on their skills and follow the way of their dreams without losing heart. If a village can produce such amazing ‘Village Rockstars’, Assam too can produce, from its remotest corners, the finest film-makers.