The Superstars of Koti: the story of three young dholak-players possessed by a local deity
In the village of Koti near Dehradun, everyone wants to be possessed.
Here, possession is a matter of prestige. If you are possessed by the ancient local deity, you are said to be chosen for life, a medium for the divine.
Faith casts a long shadow over ordinary lives across in India. But in Koti, this shadow is particularly pronounced. Life here is arranged around the deity, social structures defined by him.
The high-status Khash community lays claim to the deity. But the Dhaki, a community of dholak-players and devotees who serve the Khash, are blessed by possession. (See video)
Fresh out of film school, Anuj Adlakha and Farha Alam heard of Koti, and set off to make a film about deity possession. But after having spent time in the village, they found the role of the deity to be more subtle and complex than they'd imagined.
The film Adlakha and Alam ended up making is less a religious documentary and more a story about what it means to come of age in the shadow of an ancient faith in a tight-knit community.
They followed the deity into people's lives, and emerged with the story of three boys, each with a different relationship to the deity, and to each other.
Devdass is a deeply devoted Dhaki dholak-player. He has been possessed for more than five years and is proud to be chosen.
Kuldeep is the nephew of the village seer. He is trying to balance his Khash identity with his urban education in Dehradun.
Ram Prakash is the child of Nepali immigrants. He runs a chai stall and fantasises about being possessed by the deity of his own village.
These are The Superstars of Koti for whom the film is named. The film follows the three boys over two crucial years in their early teens, as they begin to take ownership of their ambitions and identities, and try to balance inherited roles with personal dreams.