21 - 02 - 2019

‘Village Rockstars’ Revisited

 I felt apprehensive about going to revisit some of my early days at my village where I spent my childhood. But that did not happen until I decided to go “Village Rockstars”.The other day my family was watching the movie but they were not praising their best despite I determined to see the Oscar nominee for India's official entry to 91st Academy Awards.

I was taken aback when I had to web search fairly some time for a movie ticket last weekend. It was showing just one seat left and I booked it haste without a second thought.  It ain’t bringing mass entertainment but with the big screen I saw the breathtaking beauty of nature that I had had a rural upbringing. City dwellers might not feel the woes of villagers they face in their day-to-day life. They have brought them nothing but misery.

Village Rockstars, the Assamese movie has won three awards best child artist, best location sound recorded and best editing category. The film grabbed the best Feature Film ‘Swarna Kamal’ award at the 65th National Film Awards 2018. It is a marvellous picturization of a village at Chaygaon in Lower Assam where a ten year old girl Dhunu dreams of having her own rock band. She achieved this in real life with the help of a gang of boys and the support of her widowed mother. Self-taught filmmaker Rima Das has written, co-produced, edited and directed the shot duration stretch of the film with an idealized view of rural life and true feeling.

The film is a day in the life of a small family. Dhunu (Bhanita Das) faced struggle in her schooling days with her brother Manabendra yet she had a cherish aspiration. The acting of widowed mother (Basanti Das) was flawless. The duos were indeed real mother-daughter living in a same remote village ‘Kalardia’ in Kamrup (Rural) district where the shooting was also done. It was not just acting but they were living in abject poverty.  My buniadi (primary) days were no different as most of our class mates were from humble background. The poverty of her imagination had truly reflected through the film. I had a chance to mingle with them like that bicycle boy. No doubt Rima Das has the creativity of novel ideas. She had categorically highlighted about the story and struggle of her village.

People born and living in this digital world might not realise those rural distress. The village has virtually no roads. It is a long windy path behind the school. They go across paddy field or by boat during flood. Yet children made fun at school and they seem to be filled with joie de vivre. Every scene was captured with utmost care and natural. The rain had not stopped in that watery village for the entire movie. When I looked back at my childhood memories I felt rain showering inside the movie. The school goers took shelter with arum plants that grow in abounding from rain. That is the great way to de-stress and have some excitement. We too even skipped school after a rainy day as there was only one pair of uniform. Being a girl, she is a wonder climber and plucks nuts from areca palms trees. She saved rupee by rupee in makeshift piggy banking on a bamboo post at home from the earning of betel nut for a guitar that she got inspired from comic books to form a band.

The monsoon skies remained overcast as sheets of rain poured down without stopping. The villagers have been cut off by floods and landslides. Their crops destroyed by floods and they have been forced to leave flooded areas. But there was no burst into floods of tears for them. It helped them to realise the nature of their struggle. Yet her mother works again in the paddy field to transplant paddy seedlings for a living. It is like worshipping to the God for their day to day life. Boating is considered as a sport for recreation. It is no king’s pleasure for Dhunu but she goes to row for vegetable creeper that grows on water for her goat (Munu). The lively behaviour of the curving horned goat flashed her most winning smile. The storytelling was so natural that it was like travelling across an agrarian village during summer holiday. The canopy (cone shaped broad brimmed hat serving as an umbrella) as parasol has been symbolised her (Dhunu) sheer grit and determination.

My teenage daughter wonders how people leave from hand to mouth in such condition. Movie goers might not hear the spoken dialect in the background but subtitle narration in English is displayed the missing dialogue very artistically. Dhunu is just one symbolic of a girl who fought to aspire to the heights of independent that her mother stood like a dome to fulfil her daughter’s dream of becoming Village Rockstars. The silver lining of the film is that Rima Das stays positive throughout the entire movie in the midst of negativity. She took villager’s weaknesses and translates them into positive happenings.  Kids always stay positive and the story is no exception.  Rima Das has beautifully portrayed the sketch of the entire movie. Well, may be the movie is not the best for the many but the film certainly has mass appeal from rural. Her number is truly incomparable.


Kamal Baruah