Warning: This film contains visual depictions and descriptions of child sexual abuse and violence against women.
Written and directed by Renuka Shahane, Tribhanga released today on Netflix. Starring Kajol, Tanvi Azmi, and Mithila Palkar, Tribhanga is a moving story about a complex family that takes its time to catch your attention. Much like the everyday lives of our neighbours and friends, this story too starts in a rather boring manner. The lives of the main characters don’t look particularly intriguing at first — Anuradha Apte (Kajol) is an actor who has often been in the centre of controversy, her mother Nayantara Apte (Tanvi Azmi) is a writer with whom she has an evidently strained relationship, and her daughter Masha (Mithila Palkar) who is having a baby and is happy living in the shadows.
The history of their family, their relationships, and the events that have shaped their present, start unravelling in a hospital room when Nayantara suffers a stroke and is in a coma. Nayantara’s biographer, who seems to know more about her than her own family, becomes a sounding board when he insists that the biography would not be written without Anuradha and her brother Robindro’s viewpoint. And boy, do they have a bone to pick with their mother!
The film starts slow, as mentioned earlier. Kajol’s cussing seems far too forced and removed from reality. Certain scenes and dialogues, like the one between Anuradha and Robindro on the stairs at the hospital, seem to have been added just to increase the run time of the film; they don’t add anything to the story. In fact, it is because of these execution flaws that the film seems boring in the first half. Even the impactful scenes, which were supposed to be defining moments, did not make the mark they should have. For the first half of the film, you will also feel that the acting is below average. But even then, you will see in glimpses that the story holds promise.
Once their lives start unravelling and generations of grievous parenting errors are revealed, the film looks like the story of any regular family out there — not always loving, not always forgiving, and far from “perfect”.
You will also notice an unusually realistic portrayal of how independent women, especially single mothers, are perceived and the pressures women must survive if they are not strong enough to stand up to everyday patriarchy. The one gripping scene between Kajol and Mithila as mother and daughter is the kind of honest conversation every daughter wants to have with her mother, to tell her about the mistakes she made (everyone does, no parent is perfect), and to tell her why she’s choosing to do things differently from her mom. It also sums up this complex story in a way — how the youngest child of a dysfunctional family is trying to find normalcy by giving into everything her in-laws say, just so that she and her child don’t have a life as difficult as her grandmother’s or her mother’s. There are a few practical parenting lessons in there for people who want to do more for their kids than just secure a large pay packet in their future.
The stars of this film are undoubtedly Kajol, Tanvi Azmi, and Mithila Palkar. But we don’t see enough of their talent on screen here. It takes time for Kajol and Mithila to shine, but they do in their own way. Tanvi Azmi, however, is criminally underutilised. We were really looking forward to seeing more of her in this story.
Watch this film with your mom, your nieces, your daughter, and your sister. Watch this with the women in your family and understand why some part of this story resonates so much with them. Because there will be a moment while watching this film when women will see themselves in it.