She took the global film festival circuit by storm with her feature film Village Rockstars. The same landed Rima Das a national award. One of the most sought-after independent filmmakers in India presently, Das, who hails from Assam, is back with her new film Bulbul Can Sing.
Congratulations on receiving the National Film Award. Has life changed?
A lot has changed. India is a huge country, where films are made in a lot of different languages. To recognise an independent movie as the best film in India and award it is itself a huge honour. I am not the only one who is witnessing a change. It can be felt by our whole team and other independent directors too. It is very inspiring.
What is Bulbul Can Sing about? Why did you decide to make it?
The idea of Bulbul Can Sing came to me while making Village Rockstars. In the latter, I worked with children. So, I had it in my mind to make a trilogy and thought that the next movie should be with teenagers. At first, I decided to make a teenage love story, but later on as I started writing and further explored the idea it became more about love and friendship. Bulbul Can Sing explores how friendship and love come very naturally to us and how societal norms, especially in a village, influences these.
Last year, you said that Village Rockstar took around four years to make. What about this movie?
It took me a year to make this film, but I shot for 60 days, in the last three months! I followed the same process that I had for Village Rockstars. I had derived a lot of confidence from the earlier film. You know, certain stories require more time than others. For this one, I just managed to finish it within a year.
There were reports that you missed the Cannes deadline for this movie—your comments.
It’s not right. I had just started it then, it was not yet ready. Sometimes a lot of what I say gets misinterpreted. I didn’t even try for Cannes. So, that’s it.
Going back to Village Rockstars, you had shot the movie with young amateurs.However, there’s one professional actor in this movie.Was it a conscious choice?
No, it was more like going with the flow. In Village Rockstars, there too was a professional actor who played a guest role, a very important part. It’s not planned, it is how stories come to me. In the very beginning, I started with amateurs, but later on the story and the role demanded that I hire a professional. The character played by the professional actor is that of a complex human and I thought that with an amateur I will not be able to extract that performance.
The movie is predominantly Assamese. Do you plan to make movies somewhere else besides Assam?
Yes, of course. I would love to come out of my comfort zone. Right now, I am going with the flow, with the stories that come to me naturally. We are planning a Hindi film, not necessarily a Bollywood film, but just the language.
You’re the director, cinematographer, editor, producer, executive producer, and screenplay writer of the film. Don’t you trust anyone with these jobs? How do you manage to wear so many hats at once?
I just managed like I did in Village Rockstars. No, it’s not about the trust issue. My timings are very different. Since I do not belong from any film school, I wanted to experience it all. After TIFF, the film gave me global recognition and it travelled to 70 other festivals, so I had to travel every month. If you hire a professional team, a lot of things need to be considered, like time slots, availability and so on. So, that is why I had to do it all by myself. In the future, I will definitely work with a professional team.
Tell us a bit about your editing process.
I edit while shooting the film, so, it happens very fast for me. While taking the shots, I know what should be captured and what shouldn’t be, it’s all in my mind. Having said that, it is a tiring job, but so far I have managed.
Referring to the much trending MeToo movement, have you ever come across any such circumstances, personally, or do you know of any sexual harassment incident?
Fortunately, I have not experienced anything like that at all. While making the film, even though I knew it was under my control, I was worried about travelling alone, but, like I said, nothing of that sort has touched me so far. Every time I have visited a place, people have looked at me with respect and I am very happy to share that.
Have you felt any kind of pressure following the virtue of Village Rockstars?
I am very passionate about movie making and while making my first film, I believed that I had nothing to lose. The second film after Village Rockstars, I thought, was going to be very important. A lot of my friends advised me to take time and make it. With a movie, sometimes it may work, sometimes it may not, but, I’ll keep making movies, since I love doing them. Village Rockstars brought so much love. I want my audience to love this film as well. I am nervous and terrified. However, I am not terrified to make another movie.
You have said that Village Rockstar was a learning curve. What’s your take-away from this movie?
I am still learning. Every film throws a different challenge when you work with a different story and cast. Village Rockstars and Bulbul Can Sing are not similar films. The treatment isn’t similar and even during editing, I try and do it differently. I am happy that so far it has worked.
Now that you are making films faster, can we expect another movie at TIFF next year?
I don’t know. I love to create something and think about it constantly. But, a lot of other producers are approaching too and I want to make a movie with them. They have been waiting for the last one year, but I have not been able to give them time. Now I want to work with a professional crew and experience what it is like to make a movie with better production value. Having said that, I will always continue making my kind of movies and doing everything alone.
Can we expect the last part of the trilogy next year?
It may not come next year. But, the last part will definitely come. It’s in the process.