Nature inspired Rima Das during the pandemic; plans a new feature.

Rima Das talks about how the lockdown is helping nature heal, and how the cancellation of film festivals will serve as a setback to independent cinema. 

Rima Das, the director of two National Award-winning Assamese films Village Rockstars and Bulbul Can Sing, is in her Mumbai home during the coronavirus lockdown. However, she claims she is enjoying the isolation despite being away from the place she thrives the most — in the lap of nature. Excerpts from an interview:

1. Both Village Rockstars and Bulbul Can Sing were clearly inspired from, among other things, your love for nature and the outdoor. Now that you are confined to your home, where are you seeking inspiration to stage your next film from?

My inspiration comes from life, for my previous films and even for the next one. It is a strange and difficult time but it’s also a time of self-realisation. I have learnt many things. I value time, the people in my life, and the little things in life more. We usually take little things for granted, like say having a laptop. Now, due to the lockdown, I wonder what if it suddenly breaks down?

As for nature, it is an important part of my films. I can’t physically be present outdoors. The five senses still keep me connected to the outside world. I can still see the sea, the birds, the sky through my window. At night, when I can’t see them, I can still hear the waves. There’s a world of content online. Through meditation and imagination, I could be on a tree, near meadows or by the river.

2. Do you believe this distance and eventual reconnecting will inspire more filmmakers to make cinema that is close to nature?

Probably, yes. It is very subjective. Even while I am indoors, I still feel connected to nature. The five senses, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling work differently for different people. I am also curious to see what different filmmakers will create after this phase of isolation amidst the pandemic.

3. Do you think your two films on Netflix (Village Rockstars and Bulbul Can Sing) will help those sick of the lockdown transport themselves into a world they may be desperately craving?

Almost every day, I receive tweets, Instagram stories, Facebook comments telling me that these films make them happy. Some find it meditative. Some others said the films give them hope. Others find that the film gives them a feel of being outdoors. A couple in a long distance relationship told me that they saw Bulbul Can Sing at the same time at their respective homes while they were  together on video call. They were crying, laughing, watching the film together.

4. Village Rockstars was recently included in the syllabus of class 7 in Assam schools. Do you believe the role of an artist is as much to educate as much as entertain? Will this inform your future decisions?

In every difficult moment of my life, when I could see no hope, there’s been work of art that’s inspired me. There’s been a film, a song, a poetry or a painting that has motivated me to keep going. Even in these gloomy times, people are looking up to art to find their light at the end of the tunnel. Can’t say much about the future as of now. But as a storyteller, I like to challenge myself and experiment. I would like to tell new stories. Stories are soulful, authentic, moving, and can stimulate thoughts.

5. Would you have been rather isolated at your home in Assam than in Mumbai? How different would things have been in that case?

I have a big family of almost 10 people. So there would always be someone around. I could walk around in my backyard. In the village, we have this habit of shouting loudly from the backyard and talking to neighbours’ standing in their backyard. You might have seen it my films as well. If I were there, I could also be more involved in helping the community.

Initially, I felt it would be better I would have been better off if I had been at home during the lockdown. But as a filmmaker, I am glad I got to experience this feeling of isolation, lack of freedom, and being alone. I feel one with people across the world in their pain and hope.