Private Project

The Feast

In October 2021, the fisherwomen of Pulicat lake, the largest brackish water lagoon in South India, organised a sumptuous meal for their politicians and bureaucrats. Their plan was to remind the powers-that-be of the rich biodiversity they stand to lose if they sanctioned a massive port that would pollute and all but erase the lake. It was a novel way of making a point, using food as a tool of  protest.

The Feast is a film inspired by this event. It tells the story of a  prawn picker Mary who is distraught by the expanding ambitions of a factory where her daughter Josie works. It spews untreated effluents into the nourishing waters of her beloved lake. Caught between the risk of Josie losing her job and the prospect of losing the lake, Mary makes her choice with a desperate plan to convince fellow villager turned politician Thomas to stop the factory. All she needs is her secret ally - the lake itself - to let her tap into their shared memory of childhood tastes, flavoured by its waters and do its magic. 

  • Rishi Chandna
    Tungrus, Party Poster, Ghol (in development)
  • Rishi Chandna
    Tungrus, Party Poster, Ghol (in development)
  • Rahul Srivastava
    Ghol (in development)
  • Rishi Chandna
    Tungrus, Party Poster, Ghol (in development)
  • Rahul Muralidharan
  • Anita Arjundas
  • Jessica Seddon
  • Antony Janagi
    Key Cast
  • George Vijay
    Key Cast
  • Anbarasi
    Key Cast
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  • Runtime:
    25 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    August 10, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    17,500 USD
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Distribution Information
  • Rishi Chandna
    Country: India
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Rishi Chandna

I am a self-taught independent filmmaker based in Mumbai and Goa. Currently I am in development of my first feature-length fiction film titled GHOL/THE CATCH. The project has been mentored at the 2021 Sundance Screenwriters Lab, and selected at the Cannes Film Market 2021, the 2021 NFDC Film Bazaar Co-Production Market and the 2021 Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum where it won the top HAF Fiction Award for a non – Hong Kong project.

My debut short film, TUNGRUS (2018), a black comedy about a Mumbai suburban family divided over eating their dominating pet rooster, was shown at Hot Docs, Visions Du Reel, BFI London Film Festival, IDFA and became an Oscar-qualifying short documentary after winning at Slamdance Film Festival. Tungrus has released online on the prestigious New York Times’ OP-DOCS, PBS POV SHORTS, The Criterion Channel and several other platforms such as Atlantic Selects, Amazon Prime, Vimeo (Staff Pick) and Aeon Magazine. My second short film, PARTY POSTER (2022), a satirical documentary about the political poster culture in India, has shown at Palm Springs International Film Festival, Krakow Film Festival, DocAviv, Glasgow Short Film Festival and more, and was also launched online on New York Times’ OP-DOCS.

The Feast is my first work of short fiction and is part of an anthology of three short fiction films I am making, that represent marginalised communities dealing with issues of climate change and political disenfranchisement in the context of water pollution, access and inequality.

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Director Statement

As a child I most looked forward to Sundays because it meant a visit with my mother to our neighbourhood’s bustling fish market - boisterous fishmongers trying to catch my mother’s eye, ice machines miraculously churning away, cats feasting on surplus, and row upon row of the freshest catch - Rohu, Katla, Koi, Chingri, Parshe and the precious King of all Fish, the Hilsa. The day my mother would have enough saved to buy Hilsa, it would be cooked using her special mustard and banana leaf recipe and all family members would skip breakfast and promptly present themselves solemn with hunger and anticipation. Never did I imagine I would grow up into a world where our water bodies and the life that inhabits them would be at such grave risk from senseless exploitation and pollution. 

I was hooked the moment I heard about the fisherwomen of Pulicat lake in Tamil Nadu (a South Indian province) and their feast for the state’s top brass of politicians, as a means to protest against a massive port expansion that would virtually eradicate the lake and all it’s life. Researching further, I saw the lives of the impoverished prawn pickers - the catch they once found in an hour now took them eight hours standing in the sweltering sun. I heard stories of ‘fish kill’ near industrialised zones -  fishermen would find scores of dead fish just floating on the lake’s surface. I met communities that had been divided ruthlessly with promises of jobs and prosperity while their lake was quietly ravaged. And I ate delectable and generous meals at their humble homes, using catch they had gone to great lengths to find just to show me what the lake could do if allowed to regenerate - “the secret ingredient after all is the water itself”, they would say. I knew I had to tell the story of these people and their delicately balanced world.

Filmed in a village on the banks of Pulicat lake itself, and in the last remaining mangroves and hidden pristine waters of the wetland, The Feast was made possible only by the involvement of the local community - fisherfolk and their families, village heads, activists, cooks, priests, librarians and folk musicians. And many of them being lovers of cinema have even acted in the film, playing themselves. Their stories have inspired our writing and in the narrative, I’ve tried to depict the courageous effort of a fisherwoman for whom food becomes the last weapon of dissent. But caught between her daughter’s future and her cherished lake, there are no easy answers to be found here.