Renuka Shahane’s directorial debut, Tribhanga, is a poignant tale which eventually makes the turmoil in your head settle down. Peace, as Kajol says in the film, is what you find inside.
The movie begins with the incongruous visuals of Kajol beautifully dressed in an Odissi costume, holding a cigarette in her hand. If that doesn’t unsettle you, she then goes on to swear using some very colourful language, repeatedly, again dressed in that Odissi costume, making you cringe! Kajol plays Anuradha Apte, an actress who is estranged from her mother, Nayantara (played by Tanvi Azmi). Nayantara Apte is a celebrity in her own right, being an award winning writer and novelist. She now lies comatose in a hospital in Mumbai. Which brings her estranged children (Kajol and Vaibhav Tatwawaadi) together after a long time.
Kajol shakes you up with the bitterness that brims over, even when her mother is lying so helpless. She creates a ruckus in the hospital and when asked to quieten down, retorts with asking why she should as her mother ‘can no longer hear’. She and her brother can’t even bring themselves to call their mother ‘Aai’ and refer to her as ‘Nayan’. What could cause a daughter to speak in such foul-mouthed language about her own mother?
But then, not every parent-child relationship is as perfect as they depict in the movies. Parenting is a journey fraught with hits and misses. It is a trajectory which criss-crosses with your personal journey. The choices you make for yourself have implications for your offspring. And you are judged all along. For how they see you is far from perfect.
Milan Upadhyay (Kunaal Roy Kapur) plays a writer who has been entrusted with the task of writing Nayantara’s autobiography. He bears the brunt of Kajol’s anger, abuse and animosity. And then there is Masha (played by Mithila Palkar) who is Kajol’s daughter from a Russian boyfriend. A complete foil to her whimsical mom, Masha is quiet, docile and willing to adjust everywhere to keep things ‘normal’.
As the matriarch of the family lies comatose, the three generations find ways to connect, and learn about each other. A few weeks of quiet and unquiet in a hospital room changes them and their perspectives slowly.
The good thing about the lockdown is that we have been able to see off-beat content which would otherwise not make it to the big screens. Movies like Tribhanga need an audience. Renuka Shahane’s writing comes across as witty and sensitive in equal measures. This was a movie which was intended to be produced as a small Marathi film, before the producers decided to make it in Hindi. There are parts of the movie which are filmed in Marathi, and they lend it authenticity.
The film’s title ‘Tribhanga’ is derived from an Odissi stance which requires one to be bent at three points. It is compared to ‘Samabhanga’ which is the equipoise pose, and ‘Abhanga’ where one is required to bend at only one point. The three poses are compared to the different temperaments of the three women. But they all have choices to make, and are subject to scrutiny from society and their own families. All the three protagonists are adept at their craft, and fit into their roles with ease.
Every relationship has its ups and downs. There are grudges we carry. Some we share, some we don’t. Are they worth carrying to the grave? After all, decisions are taken in the context of circumstances at the spur of the moment. Nothing is perfect. Even in hindsight.