Director: Iram Gufran
Duration: 29 mins
Some stories make you laugh while some make you cry and on a few rare occasions you come across a story that sends you into a deep spiral of thoughts, that introduces you to something beyond the periphery of your imagination, something unheard of. “There’s something in the air” by Iram Ghufran is one that belongs to such a category. A documentary that puts forward accounts of spiritual possession as experienced by women petitioners at the shrine of bade Sarkar, Badayun in north India. A place where one can realize the infinite possibilities that lie beyond the periphery of sanity.
The film takes you into a world of fantasy, stranger than any fiction you would have read before, starting off in a psychiatric chamber and finally arriving at a Sufi Shrine where women possessed by ‘evil djinns’ come to rid themselves of this affliction that preys upon the young and old alike, one that has no preventives, and no one is immune to. The imperfect way in which the women share their experience is testimony to how petrified they are of their djinn lovers. The film is a tale of the affliction of air popularly known as the ‘hawai marz’ which Modern science might describe as a mental disorder but for the non-judgemental director, just a hitherto unexplored figment of human imagination which she looks at through the lens of love and desire. As the story progresses it also explores other interesting themes, it outlines how some of us place too much trust on the supernatural element of being and how one can fall in love with their misery to an extent where they might not want to be relieved of it.
The viewer is never face to face with the possessed, albeit the narration is chilling enough. The visuals of the feet of the needy women wrapped with locks and chains, along with those of the possessed recklessly banging their bodies against the walls in the shrine as if they are devoid of any control over themselves, longing for a miracle, layered with voiceovers will move you from within. The way that Ghufran plays around with shadows and lights to the backdrop of classical music that accompanies some of the scenes adds a spooky element to the story. The way the story is told is fairly subtle, deprived of any pomp and show, the camera is mostly still. The multiplicity of nonlinear dream narratives that have been exquisitely woven together through clever editing keeps the viewer engaged till the very end.
After being screened at prestigious film festivals around the globe the film also won two national awards in 2011, for best editing and for best non feature film direction. It was also a part of the 3rd edition of Cineville - the Annual Film Festival organized by Filmtantra - the Film Appreciation and Filmmaking Society of Shaheed Bhagat Singh College. We also had the honour to host the director Iram as a guest on our podcast Cinetalkies, the first season of which is available on almost all relevant platforms.
A blend of documentary and transgressional fiction, this film is packed with a new perspective on psychiatric disorders and it also asks an important question: do we choose insanity? Though an emotional rollercoaster ride, some emotions that this film evokes are inexplicable and in trying to describe them it feels as if words in my pen are like notes strum on strings, waiting to become music, maybe they are supposed to be experienced, not told and that for that you will have to watch “There is something in the air” by Iram Ghufran.