Ten-year-old Dhunu dreams of owning a guitar and starting her own rock band with her gang of friends, entirely comprising of boys. In her quaint little village, that is obviously the least of possibilities. However, neither poverty nor the societal outlook can dissuade her from dreaming. And that in my opinion is the biggest takeaway from Village Rockstars is: it teaches us to celebrate life and chase our dreams, how impossible they seem be!
The beauty of the film is it makes you forget that you are watching a movie. It is like watching life unfold before you on the big screen. And after a point reel merges with real Dhunu’s struggle to buy a guitar somehow mirrors filmmaker Rima Das’s own battle while making this film.
With no formal filmmaking training and a modest budget at her disposal, the fact that she made the country’s best film this year is nothing but a fairy tale.
Rima uses the surroundings beautifully – the vast open skies, muddy backwaters and desolate roads become characters in the movie. There are some beautiful shots of the rural landscape which makes a city bred person like me wish that he hailed from a village.
From swimming lessons in the pond to searching for a lost goat in the wilderness – scenes from the movie will also make every person nostalgic who had spent their childhood in villages.
In an interview to the Indian Express earlier this year, Rima Das had said that while growing up; she was a tomboy who loved climbing trees with her buddies, who were mostly boys. She shapes up the protagonist Dhunu, played by an incredible Bhanita Das, with similar traits. Dhunu is an expert climber and picking up tamuls from betel nut trees is a very profitable activity for her.
However, in her village, pursuits like climbing trees and playing with boys is taboo for a girl attaining puberty. The society shows its red eyes to the hapless girl but not before her feisty mother jumps in to defend her. Basanti Das, whose character is also called Basanti plays the character with certain aplomb. The scene where she gives it back to the neighbourhood ladies criticizing her daughter for climbing trees is a riot and generated thunderous applause from a jam packed Anuradha Cinema Hall.
With her guerrilla style of cinematography, she also shows us the first-hand account of the ravages caused by Assam’s perennial problem- flood. When Dhunu says that her father would have lived if the embankment on the village river was constructed earlier, it hits you hard.
The rest of the kids who are all non-actors handpicked by Rima Das from her village have done a terrific job. The total lack of inhibition from them serves the realistic tone of the movie very well.
It is heartening to see the overwhelming response garnered by the movie so far. While the hype created after it became India’s official entry to the 91st Academy Awards certainly helped its cause, it is a fact that this coming-of-age tale from rural Assam has made itself immortal in the annals of history. Oscar or no Oscar, Village Rockstars rocks and the emanating sound has transcended maps and boundaries.