Tribhanga Review: It Is A Spunky Sparkling Chic Chick Flick

Tribhanga(Netflix)

Starring Kajol,Tanvi Azmi,Mithila Palkar,Kunaal Roy Kapur,Vaibhav Tatwawaadi

Written & Directed  by Renuka  Shahane

Rating: *** ½ 

Just like life, Tribhanga is  somewhat off-kilter, a  little askew, at times  uneven and even patchy. But the story of three generations of  women from one family,spirited, unorthodox, unfettered,  holds together,  moles warts  and all. Tribhanga is  a fiercely original film, though  cinephileswould like to see distinct shades  of Ingmar Bergman’s  imperishable classic  Autumn Sonata in Renuka Shahane’s striking debut film. But that,  like  much in life, is only an illusion.

 The fierce  mother-daughter battle  so indelibly  passionate  in  Bergman’s film,  is  ignited here by the  presence of Kajol .The fieriest actress on this side  of  Fearless Nadia and Geeta Bali, Kajolbrings to Tribhanga  a kind of  unrehearsed  ferocity that is  at once intimidating intriguing and  irresistible.

Strangely there aren’t that many confrontation  scenes  between mother Tanve Azmi and  daughter  Kajol as there were between Ingrid Bergman and Liv Ullman in Autumn Sonata.  Maybe Ms Shahane  in  her  bid  to  escape  a conventional conflict, went the  other way in search of  the deathly stillness under the drama of disengagement  that  defines  the fiery Anu(Kajol)’s relationship with  her celebrity  mother Nayantara(Tanve Azmi), an author who  couldn’t write a happy ending for her own  life.

There  is  one  major confrontational mother-daughter sequence where  after being  abused by  her Russian husband(why Russian?) Anu bodily pushes her  mother out of the door when she pays a sympathy visit.  It’s a devastatingly PHYSICAL  moment because when Kajol gets physical  she really gets  physical. Pulling  out all stops, she gives one of her best performances in recent years. 

In contrast  kid brother(Vaibhav  Tatawaadi)  a  Krishna bhakt is a quiet gentle soul always trying to  calm down his hyper-ventilating sister. It’s  a study in contrasts that  avoids  looking doctored  into the  plot. 

More than her  complex tangled  relationship with  her mother, its is Anu’s  ongoing fencing with her mother’s biographer  that had me fascinated. Anu hurls  the choicest  Hindi and angrezi abuses at the  saintly  biographer Milan, played with an aching sincerity  by Kunaal Roy Kapur(who according to me is  the most talented soul in the family). Kunaal plays the king gentle alpha male that is essential in all films  about women protagonists who are  victims of patriarchal  abuse.

 Milan speaks shuddh Hindi and never uses strong language, no matter what the provocation. Anu(being  Kajol) lets  the  expletives roll out like rotis  at a roadside dhaba. I would like to see a whole film devoted to these two characters. Not that this one is  short of  lamb-like males. MaanivGovil plays  Kajol’s  incredibly  gentle partner who makes coffee for her(have you seen even one film about a supportive male where he doesn’t offer to make  coffee for his beloved?)  while her dances her Oddissi  and hurls  abuses at  everyone who has the misfortune to be in her life.

The  most admirable part of Tribhanga is that the women are no saints or victims. They are flawed and therefore fabulous.At least two  of them Tanve Azmi and Kajol are. The third Mithila Palkaras Kajol’s daughter hardly has breathing space in the plot with two older women shouting down all other  voices. But Mithila too  manages to leave a  strong impact.

Walking that  lonely path  of  going against conventions, the  women in Tribhanga  are no cardboard  feminists. These are people who are real  with real problems, not afraid to  bare their soul when the director calls ‘action’.Renuka Shahne gets more than she had bargained for.

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