Green Templeton College Medical Anthropology Film and Discussion Group
will be screening and discussing a film of interest to South Asianists: Kusum (Altonen, 2000, 69').
Kusum is a 14-year-old Indian girl. She lives and attends school in Delhi. Kaushal, her father, drives a motorised rickshaw and works his fingers to the bone to support his family. Sumitra, Kusum’s mother, is about to have a baby. Kusum’s family is poor, but their life isn’t too bad, until Kusum falls ill. She isolates herself, she has raving fits and she refuses to eat properly. Her family takes her to see a doctor, but no physical illness can be found. It’s evil spirits, say the neighbours. Kusum, Kaushal and Aunt Suman journey to the neighbouring town of Hapur, where Bhagat the healer lives. Bhagat is well-known throughout the region, and people travel hundreds of miles to see him. Bhagat’s methods include conversation, rituals and herbal treatments. Joint trance sessions in which spirits talk constitute the core of his methodology. Should a patient fail to enter a trance, Bhagat’s assistant Meena takes the spirits into herself and is entranced on behalf of the patient. Bhagat examines the family and orders treatment.