Director: Pushan Kripalani
Cast: Kalki Koechlin, Deepti Naval, Rajit Kapoor, Gordon Warnecke, Noa Bodner, Shanaya Rafaat, Ravin J Ganatra & Bharti Patel
Set in a quaint suburb of London, ‘Goldfish’ sets out to open up conversation on a troubled mother-daughter relationship. Of the two principal characters, Sadhana (Deepti Naval), a former classical music performer for the BBC, is grappling with the fast onset of dementia while her aggrieved and estranged daughter Anamika, aka Miku (Kalki Koechlin), has returned home with little memory of her youthful past in the neighbourhood she inhabited before she set out for college, and subsequent doctoral studies.
While the mother is slowly forgetting things, words, places and people, the daughter is beginning to remember feelings of alienation and perceptions of injustice with regards to her mother’s behaviour towards her. At a time when it’s the progeny’s turn to reciprocate caring towards her elderly parent, she is dealing with feelings of anger, disaffection, a sense of guilt and other residual emotions. As she sees her mother’s health decline, the daughter has to cope with the idea of putting her in a care home. The feeling of responsibility for that act triggers moments of personal reckoning within her.
The script tries to elaborate on issues of memory, childhood angst, post-partum depression, immigrant problems, mixed-race marriages, parental obligations, family conflicts, community, diversity and neighborhood clannishness, but there’s no great consistency in the telling of it. The narrative is largely presented from the daughter’s point of view with blank screen punctuations and voiceovers hyphenating the experience in serial periodicity. ‘Goldfish’ hopes to give the audience an intimate glimpse into the mind of the unloved daughter forced to live with a parent suffering from dementia. But the attempt feels rather stilted and keeps the overall engagement on a peripheral level, despite the intimacy of the moments envisaged on screen. The pacing, plotting and screenplay could have been a little more accomplished.
The narrative interestingly presents the neighbourhood as a caring family where everyone takes turns helping out each other in times of crisis. ‘Goldfish’ is best when it portrays the close-knit Indian community and explores how the immigrant experience impacts their choices as parents.
Co-scriptwriters Pushan Kripalani and Arghya Lahiri have obviously tried to cover way too many topics in an attempt to produce an authentic immigrant experience. The issues that crop up between the mother and daughter, friends, neighbours, partners, etc, as a consequence, feel rather strung out and unfulfilling. While the portrayal of the challenges and benefits experienced by the elderly within a community set-up is realistic, the juxtaposition of the mother-daughter conflict against that backdrop feels constricting and not fully realised. The abrupt ending envisaged here, also makes it confusing.
But despite its many flaws, the underlying poignancy of the conflicted mother-daughter relationship has the power to haunt you. More than the narration, it’s the able actors who lend power to this film that hopes to trigger a catharsis within its characters. There are multiple nuances that Pushan Kripalani helps his actors bring out and that lends sensitivity and realism to the entire exercise. Kalki Koechlin and Deepti Naval’s fierce sensitivity eschews melodrama. Even so, the dialogue-heavy visuals don’t allow the audience to get intimate with their emotions. Pushan’s attempt to present the narration in the form of chapters doesn’t allow for a smooth or fluid development or engagement. The ensemble cast though, keeps you engrossed in their reel-life experiences, even while the mechanics of a fractured narration nag at you.
‘Goldfish’ hopes to be thought-provoking rather than disturbing and in that, it succeeds rather well.