Village Rockstars movie cast: Bhanita Das, Basanti Das
Village Rockstars movie director: Rima Das
Village Rockstars movie rating: 4 stars
Rima Das’ Village Rockstars is so marvelously life-like that you feel you are right there alongside 10-year-old Dhunu and her pals, as they go about their lives in a remote outpost of rural Assam. You are submerged, along with the young leads, in muddy water, clearly a favourite activity; you are looking up at that same sky as they are; you jump in the puddles they do. And you feel, every growing pain and twinge that Dhunu does.
As a coming-of-age-story alone, Village Rockstars is a beauty. As a one-woman-enterprise, the film is a marvel. Das has single-handedly created this film: written, filmed, directed, produced and edited it. As Dhunu strains towards her goal – the acquisition of a guitar so she can start her own band – you can sense the strong parallel with Das’ own strivings to make her film. It is, in a sense, the director’s own story.
And how beautifully told it is, with not a shred of artifice. There is solid craft at work, but at no point calls attention to itself. The film flows, and we flow along with it, as Dhunu the tomboy who hangs out with boys is suddenly made aware of being Dhunu the woman, as she attains puberty. And yet, in a strongly feminist stroke, Dhunu’s mother (movingly played by Basanti) supports her daughter’s move to be her own true self.
Poverty, when displayed in movies, can be tricky. You can see just how difficult the circumstances are for Dhunu and her mother, and for the rest of the village. Floods, which are frequent, can destroy crops, and that can bring everything below subsistence levels. Chaygaon, where the film is set, is Rima Das’ village, and she knows the rhythms of it from the inside, and portrays the challenges with sensitivity.
Being born poor and being happy are not at odds with each other, and that pleasure can be had from the simplest things. Movies can make a moralistic meal of these messages. Rima keeps her film blessedly free of these things. You see Dhunu strumming her guitar, and jumping up to the sky, and you are filled with joy, up to the brim.
Village Rockstars received the Best Film at the National Awards this year, and is India’s official entry to the Oscars. It has a limited release this week: seek it, watch it.
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