The Vimal Pandey - Sandeep Mishra directorial debut, The Holy Fish, had its maiden screening in The Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) 2017 at Nandan-I theatre under the International Competition (Innovation in Moving Images) catagory today and witnessed by a full packed audience braving the low-pressure rain on a wet Wednesday in the city of Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen . The film derives its title from a legendary folklore about a holy fish beleived to have the magical powers to grant moksha or liberation to the mortals on the earth.
Parshuram, one of the protagonists in the film who has somehow escaped a near death situation goes in search of The Holy Fish at the ghats of the holy Sangam in the Kumbh mela of Allahabad and is lured by one priest Daya Panda and his son Jeetu. The holy city of Allahabad and the ghats at the holy sangam where the three holy rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati meet make the backdrop of the central storyline.
The directors have captured some magnificent shots while depicting the intricacies of the holy city of Allahabad which also happens to be the very own and familiar town for Vimal Pandey who has to his credit a well acclaimed memoir on the city called Allahabad. Along the story of Parshuram the directors have magnificently woven the tale of Saras (Saraswati), a woman full of desires who craves for love and affection from the people around her. Saras gets lost in the Kumbh mela of Allahabad. Significantly the river Saraswati also loses its entity after it merges with the holy rivers Ganga and Yamuna at the sangam.
Sayed Iqbal Ahmad playing the retired teacher Parshuram carries the story efficiently on his shoulders and he adds weight to the cast of the film. Suman Patel has underplayed her role as Saras though she has been brilliant in some of the shots particularly in the scene where she speaks to her husband over telephone at the house of the village Sarpanch. Abhinav Sharma as Bodhi and Nishant Kumar as Jeetu manage to carry on their respective characters but they do not seem to be very comfortable with themselves. Ashwini Agarwal has a good screen presence as Daya Panda. Pratima Verma reminds of Leela Mishra of old days through her natural accents.
The locations are set to suit the story and seem quite convincing. The village houses, the farms, the common village folk are shown in a realistic manner and add flavour to the story. There are underwater shots in the climax scene which have been brilliantly shot by cinematographer Vaidyanath Bharti. Background music is fine and goes well with the story. The dialogues have a regional touch with a flavour of the typical Awadhi-Bhojpuri mix. The costumes by Lata S. Singh are down to earth and realistic.
The Holy Fish deserves appreciation as the maiden production from Humble Bull Creations and it it will definitely draw attention of the film fraternity across linguistic barriers. The film reminds of the movement in Indian cinema known as parallel cinema and reasonably keeps itself at a distance from the high voltage bollywood masala movies that rely upon star casts and foreign locations.