Film: Against The Tide
Cast: Rakesh, Ganesh and their families
Director: Sarvnik Kaur
Rating: 3 1/2
Runtime: 97 min.
Sarvnik Kaur’s second feature length documentary is about the threats faced by the Koli (fisher folk) community and uses documentary footage and naturalistic fiction to depict the real life experiences of two friends who get torn by their opposing concerns for their community and industry.
Rakesh and Ganesh, both Indigenous fishermen and best buddies, are driven to desperation by climate change, affecting the very livelihood they are dependent on. While one wants to embrace the progress visible in fishing with LEDs in the deep, as done by advanced Chinese fishing boats, the other is content in his traditional ‘secure zone’ of fishing in shallow waters nearer to the shore. As their fishing catch gets dearer and their individual economics, more fragile, the two best friends get caught up in conflicts and complications arising out of their diverging circumstances. Their friendship begins to fracture as their families struggle to get a firmer handle on life.
The songs sung by the Kolis are all about the emergence of new life and the fearlessness with which the community moves forward. The narrative opens with the birth of Rakesh’s son, and the traditions and rituals that are followed to welcome the newborn. The familial then segues into the traditional (vocation) as the man out at sea begins to encounter difficulties in sustaining a steady profit-bearing catch. As the film progresses we are treated to efforts by Ganesh to convince Rakesh of the need for progress in the way they go about the business of fishing in these troubled waters. As time and tide passes, we see the estrangement that begins to sear their friendship as difficulties creep up and livelihoods get singed. The narrative finally closes with the birth of Ganesh’s son and the hope of a new awakening.
Cinematographer Ashok Meena uses an unobtrusive, exploratory but distant and studied approach to picturing the locals and their environment. All the interactions feel organic even if some of them may have been rehearsed. They convey a certain mood and tone without hindering the overall expression. The characters also seem pretty comfortable in expressing their emotions without inhibitions.
The editing by Atanas Georgiev and Blagoja Nedelkovski ensures a certain fluidity and genuinity in the depiction of their conflicts. Over the course of the film, Kaur ties in aspects of Koli folklore, history, community, tradition and progress as climate change percolates into the nooks and crannies of this incisive personal drama.