Part medical journal, part spiritual journey, “Indelible Lalita” is about how one woman, the unforgettable Lalita Bharvani, copes with various health obstacles including vitiligo, the skin condition (made famous by Michael Jackson) that causes loss of pigment. While the alteration of one’s appearance would be difficult for anyone, for a dark-skinned person to gradually become white is especially challenging. But in Bharvani, filmmaker Julie Mallozzi has found a subject so spirited and serene that even themes as potentially lofty as identity transformation are brought down to earth.
Born in Bombay in 1948, Bharvani began to have health issues as a young girl. Her mother’s chief concern was that Lalita would not find a husband. Coming of age in the 1960s, at a time when young people flocked to India seeking enlightenment, Bharvani traveled with friends to Paris, eventually migrating with her husband, Pierre Lanthier, to her current home in Montreal. Besides using photographs and archival footage, Mallozzi, a Boston-based filmmaker who also shot and edited the film, has layered her subjects’ stories with an intimate, visually arresting style that, without heavy handedness, conveys the impermanence of life.