STORY: Tracing three generations of women from a dysfunctional family with diverse life choices, Tribhanga is a story of mothers and daughters, their estranged relationship and what binds them together despite the differences. It also analyses society’s tendency to label women no matter what they do.
REVIEW: Actress turned director-writer Renuka Shahane, daughter of renowned writer Shanta Gokhale goes behind the camera to bring you yet another story of women who rethink their life decisions. She previously made and acted in Rita (2009), a thought provoking Marathi film based on her mother’s acclaimed novel Rita Welinkar. Tribhanga, her second outing as a director doesn’t have a solid source material and thus feels a tad jumbled and lost. Unlike Rita, this film’s central character — Kajol as a feisty and foul mouthed dancer-actor-single mother Anuradha Apte — isn’t driven by her responsibilities or regrets. She is unapologetic about saying what she feels and doing what she does. Part autobiographical and part fiction, the film meanders indefinitely before getting its point across. At heart, it deals with a dilemma that continues to plague women. What’s better? Having the freedom to make your choices even if they turn out to be wrong or being defined by society’s expectations of you.
Tribhanga shuttles between past and present as a chaste Hindi speaking writer Milan (Kunaal Roy Kapur) interviews award winning author Nayantara Apte (Tanvi Azmi) for her biography. Along with her undying passion for writing, she reflects upon her failed marriages and how it may have adversely affected her children — Anuradha (Kajol) and Robindro (Vaibhav Tatwawaadi). Anuradha grows upto be a renowned Odissi dancer and a successful Bollywood actor, who spouts expletives at the drop of a hat. She is also a single mother, who is protective of her daughter Masha (Mithila Palkar), given her own experiences. Anuradha doesn’t call Nayantara ‘aai’ (mother) for reasons disclosed in due course. Nayan slips into coma after a brain stroke, compelling Anu to introspect and look back at her equation with her mother and life gone by.
Women have a knack of overthinking and overanalysing what they may have done right or wrong, so Shahane’s urge to capture that aspect feels organic. However, her sluggish narrative and desire to give this emotional tale a black comedy
twist doesn’t quite work. A doctor says, “Aapki ma coma main hai, par koi chinta ki baat nahi hai.” The punches don’t land well and the central character’s (Anu) idea of liberation feels a tad warped and immature. You find it difficult to understand Anu beyond her loud demeanour and devil-may-care attitude. The writing only scratches the surface and is unable to peel off the layers and show you what these people truly stand for. Your emotional investment in the film and its characters is marred by its inability to draw you in.
Anu’s angst against her mother stems from a traumatic past and none of it manages to tug at your heartstrings. You don’t feel affected or related to the characters and language seems partly responsible for it. Like Rita, this could have perhaps worked better in Marathi had it retained the authenticity of its thoughts. The storytelling isn’t gripping and it all moves at a snail’s pace, oscillating between past and present. The events and interactions fail to hold your attention or have an impact on you as an individual.
That Kajol is a fine actress, goes without saying. However, (in OTT debut) she feels a tad overbearing here with her over-the-top performance. You want to listen to her when she isn’t saying much but she rarely allows you this privilege. You expect people to stop talking and look within, but the film lacks moments of devastating silence that Shahane was able to create in her previous film as a director. Mithila Palkar doesn’t have a meaty part but she renders a mature performance. And we wish Tanvi Azmi wasn’t bedridden throughout the movie. If anyone had the potential to lend this film the gravitas it desperately needed, it was her.
The idea behind the movie is inspirational but ideas aren’t enough unless they make for a riveting viewing experience. If you haven’t, watch Shahane’s ‘Rita’ instead.