A director, cinematographer, and a theatre practitioner, Pushan Kripalani gravitates towards addressing the human condition. He first tried to explore that with his film, The Threshold, and is attempting to delve into it further with his second directorial piece, Goldfish. Releasing this Friday, Goldfish revolves around a mother and daughter, and their difficult relationship. In the film, when the daughter is asked to return to her estranged mother, who now suffers from dementia, she returns to a neighbourhood she barely remembers, and to a mother with fading memories. After its scheduled World Premiere at Busan Film Festival, the Deepti Naval, Kalki Koechlin had its European Premiere at the 30th Raindance Film Festival, London.
We spoke with the writer-director-cinematographer, Pushan, to know more about the film.
I was in Singapore while I was an actor in a play, when I started to think about the identity experience - the diasporic experience, which is living outside of your home country. And the most interesting way you can look at identity is from some distance. And so, I decided to examine the Indian diaspora that lives in London. Then, an interesting foil presented itself - someone who was losing their identity. And the way to do that is dementia. And as a contrast, someone who has lost themselves and are attempting to find their way back, was someone who has had an Indian identity before, but for some reason, suppressed it. But you have to know yourself if you want to resolve certain things in your head. You can’t move forward without doing that.
So, it revolves around a mother and daughter. The mother moves from India to England after marriage to a man who was British. So the daughter looks Caucasian. She doesn’t look like her mom. She rejects the identity of her birth and assumes an entirely British identity. But on returning to her community she has to acknowledge, finally, the cruelties and misunderstandings of the past, and move forward only after forgiving her mother for her behaviour, which was sometimes deliberate and cruel. As one person is disappearing, the other person is trying to reach her. But in the attempt to understand her, she has to in some ways, understand the language that she’s rejected in the past. She has to acknowledge that her mother is a part of her life. Forgiveness is at the crux of it. We can only move forward once we acknowledge who we are. And only when we know who we are we can truly forgive someone else.
Writing takes a long time. And the examination of the human condition on the page is a very difficult thing. Also, I like to work with collaborators. Working with Arghya Lahiri and the actors was very special. The direction process for me is very different. The actors bring their own game to it. Since I am fortunate to be a cinematographer as well, I’m able to offer them space to explore things. And then I’m able to adapt immediately and get out of the way as quickly as possible.
For example, one of the key problems in doing film is you’ve got a lot of lighting and since I am incharge of that I can make it as minimal as it needs to be. For instance, traditionally one tells the actor, you can move from here to there for a shot, or look up from the table to this part of this thing. Stop here. And to me, that approach is restrictive. I like to leave it open to play. So we work very quickly. We’re able to do dozens of pages in a day sometimes because the actors are free to move about and do what they need to do. And I work with very small cameras. So the process of direction is actually creating an environment that enables the actor to be the best version of that character, within certain parameters.
Words Hansika Lohani