Star Cast: Kajol, Tanvi Azmi, Mithila Palkar, Vaibhav Tatwawaadi, Manav Gohil, Kanwaljeet Singh
Director: Renuka Shahane
Available on: Netflix
"Itna pyaar hai mere bachchon mein aur itni badhi khaai unke aur mere beech mein. Kabhi kabhi sochti hoon kaash yeh mere kirdaar hote, phir mein unne apni manchahi disha mein le jaati," says Nayan (Tanvi Azmi) before she takes a brief pause and continues, "Aur phir woh mujhse pyaar kartey. Kaash mein apne aapse rishton ki kadwahat mitta paati."
There's pain in her voice, there's hope too. Off the screen, director Renuka Shahane holds the power to mould her characters in her Hindi directorial debut Tribhanga, and boy, she does her part exceptionally well!
What's Yay: Performances, Direction, Writing
What's Nay: A little more tight grip on the editing was needed
The film begins with the shot of a desktop whose wallpaper features the three leading ladies- a multiple award-winning novelist Nayan (Tanvi Azmi), her actress-daughter Anuradha Apte aka Anu (Kajol) and her granddaughter Masha (Mithila Palkar). A man starts typing something on the keyboard, and we step into the 'tedhi medhi crazy' world of Tribhanga.
The scene shifts to Nayan who is trying to write something on the cover of an envelope with her quivering hands, while the same man is seen capturing her on his camera. We soon learn that this man is Milan Upadhyay, a shuddh Hindi-spouting guy who has been engaged by Nayan to pen her autobiography.
Elsewhere, a nervous but visibly excited Anu is gearing up for her Odissi dance stage performance. Her dance recital gets interrupted when she learns that her estranged mother Nayan has been comatose after suffering a brain stroke. She immediately rushes to the hospital with her daughter Masha. After taking a swipe at the reporters gathered outside the hospital, Anu heads to the room where Nayan has been admitted, gives the most unsympathetic reaction and says, "Perfect. She's in a silent zone."
Slowly through a series of flashbacks, we get a closer peek into the lives of these two feisty, non-conformist women who never shied away from making their own choices even if it came with a huge price to be paid.
In one of her interviews, Renuka Shahane had mentioned that it took her six years to script Tribhanga, and after watching the film, one understands the reason behind the same. Tribhanga is not one of your regular dysfunctional family stories. When was the last time you saw a female protagonist gusty enough to describe marriage as 'social terrorism'?
It's brave of Shahane to steer clear of excessive melodrama to invoke emotions in the audience. Slowly as we peel the layers of the director's work, we see her challenging the patriarchal and regressive mindset, and creating female characters who are unapologetic about the choices that they have made in their lives. Renuka's characters are far from being pitch-perfect, but that's exactly what makes them relatable. You realize that a mother can be wrong, but that doesn't make her love less.
When a character in the film is asked to talk about one of his memorable moments from his childhood, he replies, "Saare hi pal yaadgaar hai. Acche bhi, bure bhi. Everything is precious." Just like that, Renuka Shahane's Tribhanga has its heart in the right place irrespective of a few bumps.
Kajol essays the role of a controversial Bollywood actress with an acid-sharp tongue, whose tangled feelings for her mother harbours from her rocky childhood. The actress is an absolute hoot in the scene in which she tries to explain her interpretation of a cuss word to Kunal Roy Kapur's character Milan. In a similar way, she also leaves you teary-eyed when a scene is high on emotions. Her process of dealing with grief and difficult emotions is elevated with some shining writing.
For those who don't know, 'Tribhanga' in Odissi dance form means 'three bends." The posture can be alluring, loving, sensuous, motherly depending on the mood of the dance and the character being portrayed. Just like Kajol's character in the film.
Having a seasoned actor like Tanvi Azmi is a huge win for Renuka Shahane as the veteran performer pulls off a flawless act even when her character is lying still on the hospital bed. Shweta Mehendale who plays the younger Nayan, gives an honest performance. Mithila Palkar gets a little less screen time than Kajol and Tanvi Azmi. But the youngster, still manages to make a mark. My favourite scene is the one where she visits her grandfather. Trust me, it leaves you with a lump in your throat!
Speaking about the men in the film, Kunaal Roy Kapur stumbles a bit when it comes to playing the Hindi-speaking biographer. Manav Gohil and Kanwaljeet Singh play their roles well even when the film lets the three ladies do all the talking.
Baba Azmi fares well when it comes to the camera work. Be it the flashback scenes or the present ones, the man has a efficacious grip on his lenses. Speaking about the editing, a stronger hold on the scissors would have saved the film from dragging a bit at places.
Thankfully, Renuka Shahane doesn't insert unnecessary songs in her narrative which would have otherwise broken the flow of the film. The film's background score goes well with the theme.
"Yunhi baithe baithe soch rahi thhi kya ab bhi koi jeena baaki hai. Hai abhi bhi bahut peena baaki hai." With her sweet-and-salty take on imperfect mothers and difficult daughters, Renuka Shahane has made a promising debut as a filmmaker when it comes to Hindi cinema. It would be interesting to watch what the director has in store for us when she wields the megaphone next time.
We give 3.5 stars out of 5 to Kajol-Tanvi Azmi-Mithila Palkar starrer Tribhanga.