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Enemies come in many shapes. In the case of the spiky-haired,tomboyish Reshma Valliapan,however,they arrived one morning in no form or figure as voices that screamed in her head and drove her crazy. She asked her mother to tell them to go away and ordered her sister to close the windows. They wouldnt leave. She had all the hallmarks of severe schizophrenia, recounts Dr Arvind Panchandikar,Reshmas psychiatrist,in the documentary,A Drop of Sunshine (35 minutes). How Reshma turned into an unlikely hero,fought an impossible battle and came out laughing is the subject of the documentary that has won a National Award this year.
A Drop of Sunshine is now available in a DVD titled,National Award Winning Films 2011. The other films in the DVD are Iram Ghufrans There is Something in the Air,and Mindscapes…of Love and Longing by Arun Chadha. The DVD has been released by Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT),an effort to make its own award-winning films available publicly. There are few avenues to watch good documentary films in India,which makes this DVD of stellar films a must-buy.
Reshmas story,for instance,fits into the age-old module of how even demons can be tamed,if not conquered,through courage and chutzpah. Her condition had no cure but the youngster,in her twenties,wasnt ready to let her life slip away. After trying drugs,meditation and art therapy,she and her team comprising her parents and her doctor,set off on an unconventional route. Against contemporary psychiatric logic,Reshma decided to make friends with the voices. The film recounts a journey fraught with challenges and,as the mind games begin against a fearful affliction,audiences will find themselves rooting for Reshma in this real-life drama of life and loss.
Like Reshma,the protagonists of There is Something in the Air (29 minutes) can tell an unusual story. More importantly,they want to tell it,complete with elaborate gestures. In the process,they reveal when happens when a person is possessed. The film is,largely,based on the shrine of Bade Sarkar in Badayun,famous for attracting devotees who suffer from an affliction that goes by many names hawa (air),saya (shadow),bhoot (ghost),rooh (spirit) and djinn. The shrine becomes a stage where the possessed narrate their stories from visitations by djinns to tales of women who have disappeared and undergo severe physical actions,relentless pacing and beating themselves against walls,among others. These rituals branch out into larger stories that create an emotional equation between the audience and the afflicted. Among these is a story of a woman,revealed only in a black-and-white photograph,who has been missing. No one searches for her,no one talks about her. She has even been erased from the family albums. The camera,when it zeroes in on the shrine of Bade Sarkar,seems to be the only one concerned about her.
Ghufran,who has won the National Awards for Best Direction and Best Editing in the short film category,avoids a linear narrative structure as well as a cinema verite technique of filmmaking. She creates a poetic and dream-like narrative that complements the fantastical nature of those who live on the outskirts of sanity.
Mindscapes…of Love and Longing (54 minutes) is a story of love stories,laced with challenges. The protagonists are all specially abled and the film delves into their romances. From young Trisha,who is on a diet and dreams of a handsome boyfriend who doesnt drink,except perhaps some wine,to a married couple,both on wheelchairs,who negotiate their space and privacy issues in their marriage,the film travels a wide arc. Various facets of relationships come to the fore of a young man who says he was almost married to a girl but his intellect told him that she wasnt the One. Of the feisty Sujata Goenka,who cannot walk without support,but found a sense of normalcy in the act of sex. She never wanted to be married but wasnt averse to live-in relationships,but then Goenka is a past master of breaking conservative norms. Another perspective comes from Sangeeta Goyal,a normal woman,who married a man with muscular dystrophy,a condition that is bound to deteriorate with time. What I like best about him is that he came clean on his position,that his condition might worsen. He told me that he wanted to marry me but what did I think about it, she says,in a film layered with meanings of relationships.