The short film ‘Kadal’, shot by filmmakers Ashwin Guru and Anita Kamaraj, takes the viewer into the lively fish markets of Chennai and throws light on the various hardships faced by the fishing community
In an attempt to educate consumers about the need to consume the fish variants that are in season and not necessarily only a few ‘popular’ varieties, filmmakers Ashwin Guru and Anita Kamaraj shot the 16-minute documentary film Kadal. “Ashwin and I often visit Royapuram every week on a Sunday. As a hobby, between 5 am and 10 am, we would try to catch some fish using a fishing line. Once or twice, we managed to catch some big fish, but the rest of the times, we caught a few small fish. Over time, we began to ask some questions on what would happen to the fish that wouldn’t get sold in the markets,” recalls Anita, also a photographer.
“After meeting chefs Sandesh Reddy and Harish Rao of Sea Salt restaurant in the city, we understood the concept of ‘in season’ fishing, which stayed with us for a long time. It essentially means eating those fish variants that are caught by sustainable fishermen using small boats, and not necessarily only a handful of varieties which we always consume, so that the ecological balance isn’t disturbed,” she elaborates. While trawling, which uses large fishing nets, is said to bring many environmental impacts, small boats are said to have negligible effect, as stated by an ecologist in the film.
Through interviews with fishermen and fisherwomen at the markets in Kasimedu and Royapuram, the film takes a viewer through the process of fishing, including a ritualistic puja that takes place before the fishermen venture into the sea, and the auctioning of the catch. The fishermen share their ordeals in overcoming extreme weather conditions and waves to secure their daily catch, while marine ecologists like Divya Karnad of the collective InSeason Fish shed light on how consumers can help the environment by consuming the fish in season. “Most of the fishermen and fisherwomen we have spoken to have shared several issues they face in earning their daily bread. The film is directed at educating all the people,” stresses Ashwin. InSeason Fish’s website also shares resources on which kinds of fish are currently breeding along the coasts and should be avoided, and which varieties can be safely consumed.
The film was also officially selected and screened at the London Film Fest, adds Ashwin. “People are yet to be made fully aware of the impact they can make through their food habits. We hope the film can help in that direction,” he remarks.