Just an hour after the news breaks that her film Village Rockstars is India’s official selection for the Oscars’ Foreign Language category, Rima Das is pleased as a punch and cannot stop saying “Thank you thank you thank you!” This is probably the news the filmmaker was waiting to hear all her life – her film is India’s official selection for Oscars.
A report published in the The Indian Express stated that a 12-member jury — led by SV Rajendra Singh Babu — announced the film, shot on a handheld camera and a shoe-string budget in rural Assam, as the official contender for Oscars 2019 in the Best Foreign Language Film category on Saturday morning.
The report further quoted Das as saying, “I got hint of the news last night itself. Of course, I couldn’t say anything then but today has to be the happiest day of my life.” The self-taught filmmaker, who is currently at her village Kalardiya, in Assam’s Chaygaon, added: “I just happened to be home — and what timing to receive this news. Right now I’m celebrating with my family, friends and the cast.”
Village Rockstars was made over four years, shot on a handheld camera, and used a cast of non-actors, sourced almost in totality, from the village of Kalardiya. The movie, which won the National Award for best film earlier this year, follows the story of a 10-year-old girl (played by child actor Bhanita Das) with dreams to form her own rock band, who goes in search of an electric guitar in her village
Says Das, “I did not have any storyboard for Village Rockstars. Since there was no crew, I did not use any artificial light. I shot in the magic light — in the morning and afternoon when the sunlight is not harsh. All the actors, barring well-known Assamese actor Kulada Bhattacharya, who appears as a wise man, are from my village. And they literally learned how to act under mukoli aakax (open skies).”
Twenty nine films from India including Raazi, Padmaavat Hichki, October, Love Sonia, Gulabjaam, Mahanati, Pihu, Kadvi Hawa, Bhogda, Revaa, Bioscopewala, Manto, 102 Not out, Padman, Bhayanakam, Ajji, Nude, Gali Guliiyan were submitted as nominations.
For Assam, the entry is already making waves — this is the first time an Assamese film has received such global — even national — attention. “It is a big deal because when you don’t receive recognition, you feel things are not possible. It stops people from trying. Such news makes me feel that things are possible,” said Das, whose new filmBulbul Can Sing premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month. The 91st Academy Awards is scheduled to be held on February 24, 2019.