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Bhanita Das’ journey from a small village girl to national award winner

Village Rockstars became the first Assamese film in 29 years to win the National Award for best feature. Meet the film’s star, Bhanita Das.

regional movies Updated: Apr 14, 2018 20:18 IST
Sadiq Naqvi
Sadiq Naqvi
Hindustan Times
Bhanita Das,National Award,Village Rockstars
Bhanita Das (L) with Mallika Das (R).(HT Photo)

At the Rongali Bihu celebrations at the Judges Ground in Guwahati, a stone’s throw away from the Brahmaputra, two young sisters, Mallika Das and Bhanita Das are the centre of attraction, the new stars in Assam.

They posed for photos, obliged requests for selfies, as performers enthralled the audience with their Bihu dance performance.

On Friday, Village Rockstars, an Assamese movie involving them won the National Award for the best feature film. It also won three other awards — film director Rima Das for best editing, Mallika for the best location sound recording, and the school-going Bhanita for the best child actor.

It is the second Assamese film in 30 years — after Jahnu Baruah’s Halodhia Soraye Baodhan Khai — to win the top honours.

Village Rockstars is set in Kalardiya village in Chaygaon, about 40 km from Guwahati which is also Rima Das’s ancestral village.

“She came up with the idea of the film when she was visiting Kalardiya, shooting for another film Antardrishti (Man with a binoculars),” Mallika recalled on how her cousin was fascinated by the village boys playing with music instruments made out of a cardboard. “It is then Rima ba told me we will do another film,” Mallika recalled the conversation in broken Hindi.

It is not a conventional film. Rima was not trained as a filmmaker. While she is the director, cinematographer, screenplay writer and even the editor of the film, the actors were mostly children from the village.

Bhanita, the ninth- standard, school-going younger sister of Mallika, was roped in to play the protagonist. She plays Dhunnu, the ten-year old girl out in search of an electric guitar in her village so that she can form a rock band of her own with friends. The film, made on a shoe-string budget, is shot on a hand-held camera.

Mallika, who is pursuing degree in Chaygaon, was given the responsibility to assist. “Rima ba also taught me to record the audio,” she said.

The two sisters lived with their widowed mother who does farming to sustain the family. “Besides the small farm, we also have three gorus (cows) and a puppy,” the young Bhanita, dressed in a new frock said.

She cycles six kilometers to school in Chaygaon. Mallika, meanwhile, has moved in to Rima Das’s house in Chaygaon.

“It was fun acting,” the young Bhanita says, adding how everyone in her class wants to watch the film now.

A Salman Khan fan, she wants to be an actor in Mumbai. “But for now, Rima ba has asked me to study,” she said.

Mallika, too, wants to go out and learn new sound techniques. “Rima ba has promised that she will make it happen,” she said.

Meanwhile, the recognition at the national level has Kalardiya villagers excited.

“All through the four years the film was shot, some of the villagers would look at us in a weird way and ask strange questions,” Mallika said, adding how most of them thought that the kids were wasting their time.

“’Why are you people always roaming around with a camera,’ they would say,” Mallika recalled. “But now they are very happy,” she said, adding that the film will be shown in the village in July.

First Published: Apr 14, 2018 20:17 IST