Tribhanga cast: Kajol, Tanvi Azmi, Mithila Palkar, Kunaal Roy Kapoor, Vaibhav Tatwawaadi, Manav Gohil, Kanwaljeet
Tribhanga director: Renuka Shahane
Tribhanga rating: Three stars
A life-changing event draws together three generations of women to look back and introspect: were they right in their actions, and the things they thought about each other? Renuka Shahane’s directorial debut Tribhanga is a chamber piece which manages to go past its problems to brim over with real feeling.
Nayantara aka Nayan Apte (Azmi) is the kind of woman who was born ahead of her time. Her passion for writing over-rides all else, and neither a constantly carping mother-in-law, a weak husband, and the demands of two growing children can divert her. Deeply scarred daughter Anu (Kajol), forced into carving a life for herself, has grown hard edges and a foul mouth. And Masha (Palkar), grand-daughter of the first, and daughter of the second, has had to face the consequences of the impetuousness of her ‘ajji’ and ‘aayi’.
What I really like about Tribhanga is the clear-eyed, unsentimental treatment of relationships, which can often be so cloyingly exaggerated in mainstream cinema. Nayan is never apologetic about her desire to be a writer: she has spent too long listening to other people; now all she wants is her own space, and freedom to pick up her pen. Does that make her selfish and self-absorbed, or true-to-herself? Shahane doesn’t judge. She lets us make up our minds for ourselves.
Anu is the driving force of the film, the ‘tedhi medi crazy tribhanga’, buffeted between a mother who in her zeal to do her own thing was blind to the abuse of the daughter, and her own daughter who veers towards safe conservatism. Kajol starts off by being too all over the place, somewhat out of synch with the others, but that’s A list Bollywood leading lady for you. Fortunately for the film, and us, she harnesses all that errant, sparking energy and becomes sure and steady, proving that the right plot and treatment is everything. If only that perfectly applied lipstick wasn’t on even in her hospital bed.
For a film that wants to be real, the sets are irksome: even a seven-star hospital room, a place where much of the action takes place, wouldn’t look so much like a living room. And most of the men — spouses, partners, siblings — get short shrift. The one man who does have a sizeable part is a ‘shuddh’ Hindi speaker who is recording Nayan’s ‘jeevani’: Roy Kapoor tries too hard and lets the effort show. Kanwaljeet is always fun to watch, but he comes on too briefly. Tatwawaadi leaves an impact as Robindro, Nayan’s son and Anu’s brother, who has found inner peace: how did he arrive at his beatific smile? A little more detail would have rounded off the film.
Shahane is much more assured when it comes to her women. They deal with each other’s troubles and foibles, are allowed to make mistakes, and forge their own paths. That’s pure pleasure.