Goldfish review: An overwhelming film that explores dementia and damaged relationships

Karishma Jangid
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Goldfish review: Of a mother and daughter's overwhelming love, pain, and redemption

Pushan Kripalani's ‘Goldfish’ revolves around a dementia-ridden mother, a resentful daughter, their shared disdain for each other, and an unsure tomorrow.

"I wanted a puppy. She got me a goldfish."  Is loving someone enough if they don’t understand our love language? Those with a strained relationship with their parents know. What happens to this love when you are running against the clock though? How do you make it work? Pushan Kripalani’s overwhelming film, Goldfish,’ asks such tough but meaningful questions.“We have always hated each other,” says Sadhana Tripathi (Deepti Naval) to daughter Anamika Fields aka Miku (Kalki Koechlin), who has returned home to send her dementia-ridden mother to a care home. Sadhana doesn’t want to leave her home while Miku wants to mortgage it. Sadhana wants to stay in the house, and Miku wants to stay away from her. The film stands at the junction of the mother and daughter’s disturbed past, muddled present, and uncertain future.

The story sounds simple, but the narrative sublimely and slowly explores its subject, keeping you hooked. Carrying this narrative skilfully is Naval with her genuine portrayal of an ageing, jittery mother with dementia. Each movement of hers echoes her inner turmoil and her restraint against letting it show. Koechlin, as the bratty but wounded daughter, who similarly refrains from letting her wounds show, matches Naval’s brilliancy. An especially impressive performance comes from Bharti Patel as Laxmi Narayan, a neighbour and friend. Gordon Warnecke, Rajit Kapoor, and Shanaya Rafaat give impactful performances too. 

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Goldfish leaves you with a lot to remember and ponder after the credits roll. Its striking dialogues and homely mis-en-scene grow roots in your heart. As I left the theatre, as a souvenir, I took with me the images of Sadhana’s cigarettes and champals, classical music, the fire alarm she refuses to fix, Miku’s coat, their ‘tea at four,’ and so on. It shows that the film was made with a compassionate gaze, especially towards disability. It doesn’t look at Sadhana with pity because of her mental illness. It vouches for her rights- right to privacy, right to dignity, and right to choose. Moreover, Naval’s dignified stance makes sure we never pity Sadhana. We root for her when she stumbles, and sympathise with her when she errs. The film necessarily reinforces that mothers are not perfect and old people don’t know it all. It sometimes looks at Miku solely as a brat who has finally come home. We only see glimpses of what makes her resent Sadhana rendering us unable to fully empathise with her. But then there is the rude awakening that sooner or later we will all lose the people we love. This is why love, acceptance, and redemption must reign.

As Jug said in Dear Zindagi, just like everyone, parents make mistakes. We need not necessarily forgive them. But we can try to view circumstances from their perspective (if they are not abusive). Similarly, Goldfish gives us a bittersweet slice of life and leaves us with a heavy heart that now knows better. 

Goldfish is currently playing in theatres. 


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Kalki Koechlin Deepti Naval Pushan Kripalani