New Achievement Unlocked with Village Rockstars
I put up this as my WhatsApp status with a caption that read “New achievement unlocked”. It meant a great deal to me. To be able to set up a movie screening and then running a campaign to get more than 125 folks to sign up. I set up the screening on Vkaao a joint venture between PVR and Bookmyshow. I wasn't expecting it to get confirmed but still went ahead and did it anyway.
The tweet that blew up and made this possible reached more than 1 lakh people! This might be a normal reach for a marketing agency or an influencer on Twitter. For a person like me who has close to 570 followers (organic growth) on Twitter, this is big! This is my first viral tweet. Well viral as defined by my low standards.
The above tweet got traction on October 2 in the afternoon. Siddharth (Actor), Baradwaj Rangan (Critic) and RS Prasanna (Director) were kind enough to retweet to their followers. The key thing I did is ask.
I watched the movie on Oct 13 with more than 120 strangers. Only one of my friends (Thank you, Sadana) in Chennai joined my wife and me. Nobody in the movie hall recognized me and rightly so. I was only a conduit through which the screening was confirmed. In the middle of the movie, I quickly glanced through the crowd and said to myself,
Wow, I made this screening possible!
Now let's talk about the movie.
Few shots in the movie stood out for me. Especially the one where Dhunu is sitting with her mother after a swimming lesson. That shot was fantastic and Rima Das (one woman army) held the shot for a while for us to soak in its brilliance. Dhunu sitting on the edge of the boat and traversing through the flood-hit areas in the village was beautifully captured.
I will admit that there was pressure to like the movie. It is India's official entry for Oscars and the critics wrote rave reviews about it. The urge to conform was difficult to tame. So I went inside the theatre wanting to like the movie. In the end, I didn't have to make much effort. It was a very likeable movie.
As my wife rightly pointed out,
They have just shown life.
We, consumers of Bollywood, are used to full of life characters, unrealistic plots, larger than life heroes, manipulative emotional scenes and mostly unrealistic real depiction of life. When someone depicts the mundaneness of life we cry aghast! Did we pay so much to look at the emptiness of life?
Village Rockstars will not work for you if you are used to in-your-face cinema which leaves no room for you to feel and then think. It is a simple story of a few children who have dreams that will cost lesser than your weekend trip. Dhunu wants to form a band and she needs a guitar. She doesn't have the money and hence makes a thermocol guitar and uses it instead. It is also about a girl who wants to break free from the clutches of society. She wants to climb trees, hang out with boys, play music and go to school. Dhunu's mother is widowed and works hard to make ends meet. She offers to sell the goat to buy the guitar. She doesn't want the society to dictate terms on how Dhunu behaves. Yeah, it's all about this and a lot more.
In one of the scenes, Dhunu asks her mother an interesting question, “Why do you work on the farms when the floods keep coming back every year to destroy everything you have grown?”. She replies,
Hard work is my dharma.
The movie is about the Ma as much it is about Dhunu and her friends. It is a movie about how people in Assam deal with floods – a recurring seasonal occurrence! It is a movie about dreams and how they don't need to be too big to be called valid dreams. It is a movie about life and everything in between.
All the trivialities that are too boring to show in a conventional masala movie are highlighted and celebrated in Village Rockstars. I am glad I put an effort to get the screening to Chennai. One of the ways to support good quality independent cinema is by going to the theatre to watch it. Directors like Rima Das need resources to make many such movies and we as the audience need to buy the tickets to do our bit.