Several years back, walking the streets of Singapore, where he was staging ‘The Merchant of Venice’, he encountered a thought — ‘I am not from here, yet I am’ — a short-hand immigrant experience for filmmaker Pushan Kriplani.
Kriplani’s film ‘Threshold’, that recently released on an OTT platform explored several layers in the relationship of a long-married couple and witnessed actor Neena Gupta give her career-best performance.
“During that time in Singapore, even before my first film, I was trying to figure out the question of belonging. And I thought about what would happen if one identity disappeared, and the other one could not find itself. The central two women emerged in one of these walks and I shared it with a few people. And the idea of identities emerged… also what is ‘home’ when you are away. So that’s the nascent idea of it. Of course, then needed a start and end. This was in 2016.”
And this is how his forthcoming film ‘Goldfish’, starring Kalki Koechlin and Deepti Naval, which had its world premiere at Busan Film Festival was conceived.
Kriplani, who still does theatre regularly and studied cinema at the University of Bristol, UK, stresses that theatre has played an important role in his training as a film director.
“They are two different skill sets, of course, though working with actors remains the same. But when it comes to working with actors who really want to go above and beyond with a director and try and find a ‘why’ to everything, things change. And that is how all the people I have worked with responded. They could feel the openness of the room that was theatrical.”
Talking about the casting, considering Naval and Koechlin play the mother-daughter duo, who interestingly look very ‘different’ from each other, Kriplani feels certain forces came together…
“Deepti has classic Indian features while Kalki is a caucasian beauty. There is that dissonance between them, which makes everything even more interesting. Kalki’s identity as an English person is obvious but to draw back her ‘roots’ is a long journey for someone who doesn’t look Indian. And Kalki’s story is similar because she’s part Indian,” he says.
The director, who was in England during the pandemic contracted Covid-19 during the second wave. During the shoot, they realised that during those two years of conversations over Zoom, there was no conversation that did not feature the pandemic.
“And this was an interesting dramatic situation. There were rumours, so we would wear masks for a few moments in the film. The drama of these two women is that they are stuck in the house together and it creates a hotbox. This eventually creates conflict and presents an interesting perspective. It goes across the time of the pandemic. Now, she has dementia, so it was quite dangerous and without dwelling on it, she is still here. So, everything expands over time…”
While many independent filmmakers feel that the OTT revolution has changed the entire landscape of visual storytelling, Kriplani has his doubts.
“Look, initially it was a great welcome. However, we soon realised that most people are working on an algorithm for programming. It is agenda-driven and uses the internet purely as an airway, not how it was before. And this is not how it should be. Now, this is not good news for independent cinema. You have shows of the same kind just because one worked. And then everyone jumps onto that idea.”
While he has developed a thriller as well, he also wants to do a podcast and be “freer with my work”.
“I am looking forward to honest work that is not created by platforms who just want their money back. I am interested in something completely different, and yes, I want to be anti-algorithm.”