‘I did not feel the need to involve another creative energy..’~ Rima Das
Each year, Indian films have been raising the bar. And these are not Hindi films; it is regional films with their path breaking stories that have catapulted Indian cinema onto the world map. This year, Assamese filmmaker Rima Das has been wooing the audiences and critics alike with her film Village Rockstars. We chatted with Rima Das, director, writer, cinematographer, editor about her astonishing journey of making Village Rockstars almost single handedly.
You have been quoted saying that The Man With The Binoculars and Village Rockstars are like your film school. What is the key learning from both these films?
The entire experience of making two full length feature films and the process of creation are valuable learnings for me. This will be long list of key learning points, I would think. Developing the script, doing the casting, shooting, handling people & equipment, managing the production, overcoming ego, sticking to the plan and the vision and finally self-belief.
Tell us about the pressures of playing the writer, director, cinematographer and editor for your film, along with shooting with non-actors. Did you ever feel the need to involve another creative energy in your vision?
Huge pressure. This 7-years process of making two full length feature films (2009-2016), entirely on my own, has been an excruciating and exhilarating journey both at the same time. I had hit the proverbial wall, many times during this period and have come out of it. I did not feel the need to involve another creative energy as both these stories are entirely mine. I did bounce ideas with friends and family and debated scenes where necessary; however I am highly possessive and stubborn while demanding what is set in my mind to achieve.
How have film festivals like Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival and Mumbai Film Festival help propel your film further, be it in terms of funding, or getting distributors?
The festivals help immensely in allowing me to understand how to benchmark my cinema at an international level competition. Coming back to the point of funding and distribution, for Village Rockstars I now have Asian Shadows as international sales agent representing VR and they will be looking at distribution deals. If the film is selected in top festivals then getting a sales agent and distributors become easier!
Regional Assamese cinema, compared to Marathi, or even Bengali cinema is still considered to be nascent. What are your views on that?
Many reasons I would say. But most importantly people in these states, Maharashtra and Bengal, are cinema lovers and active cinema viewers. Due to this there is a market and demand for high quality cinema, which then propels growth and support from their respective state governments. I do not know about Bengal but Maharashtra Gov. provides financial assistance to Marathi film producers as incentive to produce quality Marathi Films.
I was in Cannes last year, representing Man with the Binoculars all by myself. I saw Maharashtra Govt. have their own booth and promoting their cinema in Cannes and took directors bearing all the expenses to encourage them. When they heard that I am alone, coming from Assam they jumped to support me, introduced me to other peers and attended screening of Man with the Binoculars. This year when Village Rockstars was part of Hong Kong goes to Cannes, folks from Maharashtra Govt., attended my screening as they were there to promote Marathi films.
Back in Assam, film education and environment is still not very prominent. But there is hope. For the first time, there will be Guwahati International film festival organized by Jyoti Chitraban with the support of the state government of Assam at the end of Oct. We are also seeing during the last 2-3 years many good films coming from Assam. People are now talking more about cinema, both in social and conventional media. I am hopeful with these exchanges, awareness and interest level will increase and soon Assamese cinema will also hopefully one day be at the level we deserve to be.
Your upcoming film, also Assamese and set in a village, is a teen love story, which you are self funding, making it your third consecutive self funded film. Could you tell us about it and your road ahead post Village Rockstars?
I don’t wish to be labeled as a self-funded film maker. It’s hard work you know. Yes, my intention so far has been to produce my third film on my own too. But I am open to co-producers. The experience from Village Rockstars is a good lesson. I do not wish to compromise on quality and want to continue on this journey. I am of course ready for larger-budgeted films. Having been at TIFF, San Sebastian and the MAMI Mumbai film festival are opening lot of possibilities.