Tribhanga (2021) Review!!

Synopsis – The lives of three women spanning the late 1980s to present day and underscores the value of family in everyday life.

My Take – Despite the changed dynamics of the position of sexes around the world, Indian culture especially traditional families, unfortunately, still see man as the sole breadwinner and woman as the homemaker. And should she rise about her assigned status and work towards building a professional career, she is expected to fail, first as a wife, then a mother.

With this latest Netflix release, Renuka Shahane, who is still best remembered as the co-anchor of Surabhi, the cultural magazine show which ran from 1990 to 2001 on Doordarshan, and as the ever smiling Pooja Choudhury who meets an ill-fated end in director Sooraj Barjatya‘s 1994 blockbuster, Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!, marks her directorial debut by showing us the different facets of motherhood, an experience which is as strenuous and beautiful as the classical dance pose that the film draws its name from and sets out to prove how there is no perfect way to be a mother.

With resentment and anger passing down to two generations, here, we see three fascinating women with dysfunctional family ties, trying to fix the mistakes of the generations before them, while making new mistakes of their own.

Backed by Ajay Devgn, there is no doubt about how the film possesses an interesting concept and makes a brave attempt by delving into a sensitive issue, while scoring high marks in the relatable department. But while the film offers a fresh spin to a familiar story, it however, fails to provide a clearer ground for a better understanding of the characters and just sprints towards the end.

Nevertheless, despite its final outcome, director Shahane deserves appreciation for her noble portrayal of parenthood, and clarifies that no matter how wonderful your intentions of rearing your child is, there is nothing called perfect parenting. Also, the film aces in presenting women who struggle yet thrive in a world which continues to pull them down.

The story follows Anuradha ‘Anu’ Apte (Kajol), a controversial Bollywood star and Odissi dancer who upon receiving the news that her estranged mother, Nayantara ‘Nayan’ Apte (Tanvi Azmi), a renowned writer, has fallen into coma following a brain aneurysm, rushes to her side at the hospital. However, Anu isn’t as distraught by the situation as she is annoyed, as her mother’s fearless life choices have been nothing but burdensome for her and her brother, Robindro (Vaibhav Tatwawaadi), and now her current state leaves her without much needed closure.

But, Milan (Kunaal Roy Kapur), Nayan’s biographer, is determined to complete her book, hence pushes to confront the nature of her bitterness while offering Nayan’s point of view, forcing Anu to realize her own mistakes that may have reflected in the choices of her own daughter, Masha (Mithila Palkar).

As the story unfolds we follow the journey of Nayan, Anu, and Masha as we majorly delve deeper into the hate developed by Anu towards Nayan seeing through all the valid and invalid reasons from both perspectives and not just from an emotional mother-daughter angle. Here, the film justifies its subject matter and does not bring only the sentimental side of a story as a ray of sunshine but rather tries to bring humane feelings and all contemplation, all the while focusing on women and bringing to light their traumas. While it takes up feminist issues of domestic violence, single-motherhood, sexual assault, difficulties of working women in an Indian household, and sex determination without buttoning down to the term.

Though films on troubled relationships between a mother and a daughter have been made before, here, director Shahane veers away from a declarative form of storytelling, and does full justice to the women she has written, depicting the wounds and regrets behind their fearless facades without turning them into weak heroines, selfish vamps or feminist icons.

For instance, both Nayan and Anu never conform to society’s rules for them. They resist and fight for their independence, often at the cost of their children’s stability. Nayan, has always been ambitious and managed live her life on her own terms and brought up her children as a single parent. Instead of admiring her achievements and resilient nature, her children Anu and Robindro have grown up to resent her. While Anu is a celebrity in her own right, but temperamental, moody and foul-mouthed.

Though Masha is calmer and submissive she too has her own set of issues having grown up in a family that was devoid of any father figure. Now married and pregnant, Masha craves for a proper family of her own. No one in the film is right or wrong, better or worse, instead they are all navigating their own lives, making their own choices based on their own experiences. That is what makes director Shahane’s film so admirable.

Unfortunately, while the story highlights the complex relationship of the three women, it lacks certain coherence, and somewhat fails at bringing its message to the viewers in a clearer manner. We see the craving for a stable family the grief after the loss of one and more but with well-thought characters and narrative, the film falls short in its execution as you don’t get to see how their interpersonal traumas shape these women into the people they are today.

The film also misses the chance to talk about loss, grief, trauma, and loneliness in a better manner. The major plot being that forgiveness does not come easily is somewhat underdeveloped with actors who shine through the screen and a story with the potential of being something way more excellent.

As expected, Kajol is bursting with too much energy and is all over the place being herself initially, but director Shahane largely manages to keep her in check and extracts a solid performance from her in the film’s more subdued passages. Tanvi Azmi gives a wonderfully sensitive performance in a character that’s well etched and gracefully holds on to her demeanor as her character gleams through her narration of her past life. Mithila Palkar is a good foil to Kajol’s dynamism, an understated young artiste who is getting stronger with each release. However, one wishes that she had more screen space than she does.

Shweta Mehendale as young Nayan adds weight to Azmi’s character and makes the character of Nayan even more promising and authentic. Kunnal Roy Kapoor is as always ever-reliable and charming. Vaibhav Tatwawaadi is also very good, but his role is limited. Unfortunately both Kunwaljeet Singh and Manav Gohil are totally wasted with limited screen time and their characters are not fleshed out well. On the whole, ‘Tribhanga’ is an impactful and layered film which despite its flaws deserves a watch for its relative themes and characters.

Directed – Renuka Shahane

Starring – Kajol, Mithila Palkar, Kunaal Roy Kapur

Rated – PG13

Run Time – 95 minutes

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