N‚Äčilita Vachani


Eyes of Stone

Research, Direction, Production, Editing: Nilita Vachani 
Cinematography: Vangelis Kalambakas
Sound: Suresh Rajamani, Pankaj Rakesh  
16mm, 91 min documentary. Mewari and Hindi with English subtitles
A FilmSixteen Production for Doordarshan India, 1990 

The film's protagonist Shanta is 19 years old. She has been married to the truck-driver Nandalal since the age of 10.  A mother by the age of 12, she has two surviving children and has been ill for five out of her nine years of married life, given to raging head-aches, body aches and fevers, a sense of dissociation and disinterest in the world around her. During her state of possession and trance, she lives with her parents and brother in her native village, Keriya. They have  taken her to local doctors and shamans, fortified her with injections and mantras, but nothing has helped. Finally the family  brings Shanta to the temple of the goddess Bhankya Mata, renowned to preside over the spirit world.  At the court of the famed Goddess no evil spirit can survive. The mother lances the evil gaze of the 'dakan,' beats out the invading  'bhut'.  With considerable expense and difficulty the family arranges weekly pilgrimages to her temple in Asind. After 7 weeks of exorcism rituals Shanta's evil spirits are vanquished and her truck-driver husband takes her back home. Then Shanta's "normal" life resumes...

Eyes of Stone is a film about possession and healing shot in the interiors of Rajasthan, India. Expressions of faith, ritual and rebellion that thrive within the confines of a stringent patriarchal order. Eyes of Stone is a deep and unsettling exploration of one case of possession which taken to its extreme becomes an eloquent testimony to the strengths and sadnesses of women's lives and the subversions through which they must empower themselves.