Starring Deepti Naval, Kalki Koechlin ,Rajit Kapoor,Bharti Patel

Directed Pushan Kripalani

Rating: *** ½

Why does the well-qualified Kalki Koechlin always play such surly actors? She plays characters who will always find a way to make herself unhappy. She doesn’t disappoint, although it doesn’t help much that she looks nothing like Deepti Naval’s daughter in Goldfish, an oddly satisfying films about fractured lives looking for some kind of closure.

Since the film is set in London(though not shot with any touristic flourishes), the Indian characters don’t have to behave like they would if they were placed in the same situation back home. This is not to say that they are not shackled by their cultural heritage. But I am pretty sure the mother and daughter, played with powerful predilection by Naval and Koechlin would never be allowed to behave the way do were they in Ludhiana.

At one point Deepti Naval’s Sadhana even tells her daughter Anamika(Koechlin) that they’ve hated one another forever. All the bile, classical Hindustani thumris and ghazals play with selfconscious eloquence in the background. I didn’t mind them at all. But I wish the songs and were less pretentious….songs of Lata Mangeshkar connecting Sadhana to her past would have made much more sense and given the character a far stronger cultural validation.

Minor quibbles aside, there is so much to admire in Goldfish: the absence of a formal, or for that matter , any background music, for one. This is a radical departure from the norm in Hindi cinema where the emotions are spoonfed through the music.

In this case, the dramatic tension between the two women grows organically.Really, these women don’t need an impetus to be nasty to one another. With Bermanesque fury they tear into one another’s selfesteem leaving no room for niceties.Both Naval and Koechlin give off their best, imbuing their characters with a ravaged scrupulosity.

I was especially surprised by Naval in some scenes where she hit notes that I’ve never seen her hit before.The supporting cast could have done with some fleshing out.The mother-daughter’s suburban neighbors seem tokenisms rather than real people: the long-standing South Indian friend(Bharati Patel, more dhokla than idli, but we shall let it be), the mother’s secret admirer Ashwin Raina(Rajit Kapoor), etc.

I was most intrigued by the girl Tilly(played by the lovely Shanaya Raafat) who keeps tabs on Anamika’s mother in her absence. She seems to have some sort of a love-hated relationship with Sadhana and Ananya.Sketchily imagined ,Tilly is one of the many unanswered questions in a film that favours silence to conversation.

Fragile but forceful, Goldfish is a mother-daughter two-hander where other characters are placed in the shadows.Not that they aren’t needed.They just don’t have a place in the forefront on the pained-ting where the disgruntled daughter and mother , stroke by stroke, battle it out until the sudden reconciliation at the end.