I have been in the media for nearly 15 years, and yet, when I first began work on a film on Schizophrenia, ‘A Drop of Sunshine’, I believed – like many around me – that it was a condition that medicines could help with, and ultimately cure. Little did I know then how wrong I was.

The story of Reshma Valliappan is chronicled in Sanyal's documentary 'A Drop of Sunshine.'

The story of Reshma Valliappan is chronicled in Sanyal’s documentary ‘A Drop of Sunshine.’

I have always been fascinated by the human mind and its possibilities. Instinctively, I have rebelled against looking at the mind using a reductionist biological ‘physicalism’ that seems to be the dominant paradigm these days. Instead, the mind, and the thoughts it contains, has seemed wonderful, complex, intriguing. It can be a knave – teasing, lying, and manipulative. It can create webs of fantasies for us to believe. It can alter our perception of what is and can be, help us dream and rise above ourselves, but can just as easily have us fall. The conscious mind, the subconscious, Jung’s collective unconscious, dreams, thoughts, hallucinations, memories, daydreams, the real, the unreal, truth, hypnosis, telepathy, intuition, instinct – where did one end and the other begin?

It was my obsession with understanding the mind that drew me to what I believed was its most devastating illness, Schizophrenia.

As a society, we have come to lay a lot of emphasis on rationality, reason, and the primacy of the mind. We define ourselves through our minds’ ability to distinguish between the ‘real’ and the ‘unreal’. It is our intellectual prowess that gives us our place in society.

When the mind plays tricks with us, loosens its grip on what we as a people have agreed to believe to be our reality, it fills us with fear and uneasiness. And so we penalize it, legislate it out of sight. We lock away the ‘mad’, so that they may not remind us of our own vulnerabilities.

And we try and classify, inadequately, with a psychiatric ‘diagnosis’ what I have now come to believe is essentially a fracturing of the spirit – a breakdown of that core self which defines who we are, outside of masks, duplicity and pretense; the bit in all of us that pines to live free of the demands placed on us by society; the part of us that shrinks when injustice is done to us.

Through the making of this film, I have come to believe that a very thin line separates sanity from insanity. That there is a tipping over point for each of us – in varying degrees, and it is reached for different reasons.

Healing and recovery too, therefore, is a different process for each person.

The question is: do we, as a society, have the humility to acknowledge that our ability to comprehend the realities of a patient have so far proved to be woefully deficient? That the narratives of a patient, delusional and psychotic though they may seem, hold the clue to their recovery?

Watch A Drop of Sunshine on YouTube:

Direct link to YouTube playlist: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0GhgsPtaMBHI7O4xTlTRxmZo9y7GTT7D

Aparna Sanyal

About Aparna Sanyal

Aparna Sanyal is an award-winning documentary filmmaker based in Delhi in India. Over the last 15 years, she has worked extensively on documentaries for both Indian and international television, including Times Now, History, Discovery, National Geographic, BBC, CNN, NDTV and Doordarshan. Her independent films include 'Tedhi Lakeer - The Crooked Line' (2002), a film that questioned the criminalisation of homosexuality in India; 'A Drop of Sunshine' (2011), which questions mainstream notions about Schizophrenia; and 'A Land, Strangely Familiar' (2013), which looks at the shared heritage and history of India and Nepal. Aparna is also the founder and head of Mixed Media Productions, a film and communications firm.