Through the story of a 10-year-old girl named Dhunu, who lives in the remote Chaygaon village in Assam, Assamese director Rima Das pays an ode to the village where she grew up in. Village Rockstars (2017) is a film about hope — of the little girl, who, despite a hostile environment, continues to dream about owning and playing a guitar and forming a rock band with the boys in the village.
The National award-winning film was screened at Gulmohar hall, India Habitat Centre, as part of The Indian Express Film Club screening on July 22.
With the actors handpicked from the village where the film was shot, Shubhra Gupta, film critic, The Indian Express, who spearheaded the discussion, noted that anyone could relate with the story. “It is about life itself,” she said. “When we use the word realism in our movies, we also know that there is a camera present. But in this film, one doesn’t really get a sense of a camera at all. What we do get a sense of is that this is life being lived and we are just participating in it. We just happen to be here, whereas we could have easily been there,” she added.
Premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, it is the simplicity of the narrative that touches hearts. On screen, the 10-year-old girl is seen being questioned on why she was climbing a tree and hanging out with the boys. Her only confidantes are her mother and friends who encourage her to pursue her dreams. Commenting on the pace of the film, Gupta said, “None of us are used to a pace where we say, ‘oh, this is so slow’. Actually it isn’t. This is how we live our lives. We are just used to the films that come out of Bollywood and other mainstream film industries, where everything is very fast. In this film, there are hardly any dialogues. A lot of it is unsaid.”
The audience agreed with Gupta. Abhishek, who made an appearance for the fourth time at The Indian Express Film club screening, said that he could relate with the film. Having spent his childhood in Arunachal Pradesh, he said, “The essence of the movie was that come what may, we have to live. I could associate every event on-screen with our daily lives. It rains for months in my homeland and everyone has to wait for sunlight. Villages would be drowned but despite that one has to come back and restart life again.”
New York-based Steve, who is a cinematographer, said, “The cinematography, tone, pace and playfulness of the film is remarkable. Moreover, to see another perspective of the country, and not simply the north, is really special.”