She would start shooting after every lockdown over a period of three years and recalls that the state of my mind would change constantly. “It was natural that everything around would affect us,” Das recalls…writes Sukant Deepak
Scenes unfold in a waltz, the audience is delicately guided into the lives of complete strangers. Situations emerge at their own pace, and subtlety in each frame is the force of her cinema.
In a typical Rima Das film, several things are left unsaid for she trusts the audience. In her cinema, enigma is seldom lost and every new work calls for celebration, and not just because all her previous three films did the rounds of some of the most prestigious film festivals, and the latest, “Tora’s Husband” received an overwhelming response at the 47th Toronto International Film Festival held recently.
Her third feature to premiere at TIFF in a row and the first Indian film to be selected in the Platform section, Das tells it has been her most challenging film.
“It is also different from my other films, longer as well. Shooting during the pandemic took a toll on the cast and crew emotionally. Even at the edit table, I was struggling because the film reflected the same restless state of mind,” she says.
The Assamese language film, which will have its Asia Premiere at the 27 Busan International Film Festival is a story of a loving father and a kind neighbour, who struggles to keep his small-town business afloat while his relationships deteriorate, amidst loss and lockdowns. Shot during the lockdown, the film depicts life in a small town during the pandemic.
During the first lockdown, Das, best known for her 2017 film ‘Village Rockstars’, which won several National and international awards and was India’s official entry for the 90th Academy Awards, went to Assam from Mumbai and felt she “needed to do her part”, and started work on the movie. “Initially the film was supposed to be a family drama, but it slowly incorporated other themes.”
She would start shooting after every lockdown over a period of three years and recalls that the state of my mind would change constantly. “It was natural that everything around would affect us,” Das recalls.
For someone who lives in Mumbai but makes films in Assam, it is the metropolis that helps her see her home state from a different perspective. “It also helps me to understand the value of my roots. When I go there from Mumbai, I see it differently. And that holds true for Mumbai too when I make my way back. Also, logistically, Assam is more convenient,” says Das who initially moved to Mumbai to become an actor.
When she started her career in filmmaking, Das thought that her films would do well only in festivals abroad, but when her movies were screened at the Mumbai film festival, the filmmaker was surprised by the audience’s response. “I was overwhelmed. Not just in Mumbai, the films were received extremely well in Assam too. I get a lot of emails, some people insist that I inspire them to make movies, which I find really touching.”
Known as a one-woman crew — writing, directing, producing, editing, and shooting a film, besides handling art direction and costume designing, Das who is not trained in any aspect of filmmaking does miss the formal training now.
“I have never worked on a big set and would love to know how they negotiate things there. Whatever I have learned is from watching movies, thus sometimes I feel my knowledge is limited. Frankly, I want to acquaint myself with the technical aspects. Learning cinematography really fascinates me.”
Even as the last 15 years have seen a large number of independent filmmakers come up, Das feels that if producers take an initiative, many movies by such directors can see a theatrical release. “India is a huge consumer-driven country and the kind of feedback these films receive is proof enough that a sizeable audience wanting to consume them exists. Also, it is important that the government takes proactive measures. In festivals abroad, I see so many school-children volunteering, interviewing filmmakers, making their own short films…This is how an audience develops for such cinema. What is stopping our education system from taking such initiatives?”
Already shooting her next movie, Das is also looking forward to collaborating with someone. “And there is a short film coming on the OTT platforms — with a larger cast and different languages. I am quite looking forward to that.”
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