Goldfish is a heartwarming mother-daughter story that stays with you long after you've watched it. Anamika Fields (Kalki Koechlin) is the daughter who has just returned home after her mother Sadhana Tripathi (Deepti Naval), a person with dementia, narrowly escaped a mishap.
The story is set in the United States, a neighbourhood in which Anamika spent her childhood years - one gets to see the kind of close community bond between fellow Indians and Asians who reside in the neighbourhood and are always there for each other. This is evident from the fact that one of Sadhana's neighbours, Laxmi Natrajan (Bharti Patel), a retired NHS nurse sends an SOS to Anamika, when she senses that Sadhna might need someone to look after her. However, Sadhana resents help. She is a firm believer in her own ability to look after herself notwithstanding the onset of dementia.
Character arcs of both, the mother and daughter are well fleshed out - Sadhana, a music teacher, enjoys time with her students and their presence makes her feel all is well with her and the world. She reminisces the time when Pandit Ravi Shankar would play on and on until wee hours of the morning and years to attend concerts like that which indulge one's heart and mind. She is shown to have been a control freak to her daughter, often hurting the latter's sentiments in a bid for oneupmanship.
Anamika, on her part, is looking at sending her mother to a Care Home but she finds herself in a dilemma as to whether to go ahead with it or not and that forms the centre of the narrative.
Now, we come to the film's title. The Goldfish becomes a point of contention between the mother and daughter and adds meaning and context to the film. Many years back when she was young, Anamika is unable to let go of the memory that had scarred her for life. It was of her mother flushing a live goldfish down the toilet. Years later, when she returns home, she demands an answer. Her mother initially refutes the allegation saying that the fish had died but later on, she admits that it was indeed living and that she flushed it only to hurt her daughter. The pace is slow; the narrative is rich and deep, contextual and steady. The flow is highly engrossing as well.
What does it mean to parent a parent? Especially when one is an estranged daughter, trying to come to terms with one's troubled childhood. As a mother's memory begins to slip away to a point when she cannot even recognise her own daughter, it is the complex emotional and psychological dynamics that come into play and this has been ably portrayed by Arghya Lahiri and Kripalani's top-notch writing and the director's deft camerawork.
Produced by Amit Saxena's Splendid Films and presented by Anurag Kashyap, Goldfish is an immersive watch, as is the superb delivery by two very able actors - Deepti Naval and Kalki Koechlin. However, if you're into fast and racy plots, please give this one a miss, because Goldfish has top be savoured piecemeal. It is slow and moves at its own pace; there is no rushing here.
Cast: Kalki Koechlin, Deepti Naval, Rajit Kapur
Director: Pushan Kripalani