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Tribhanga Review: Dysfunctional Dynamics, Familial Tearjerker

Netflix’s Tribhanga: Tedhi Medhi Crazy directed by Renuka Shahane is the story of a dysfunctional family of women and their unconventional decisions that display a complex family drama of human failings and flaws.

As such, their relationships are defined by various positions in Odissi, a traditional Indian dance form. Set in Mumbai, Tribhanga weaves a complex tale that goes back and forth through three generations of the same family, from the late 1980s to the present day.

When her estranged mother Nayantara Apte (Tanvi Azmi), a famous writer falls into a coma, a self-made single mother Anuradha (Kajol) – also a famous Bollywood actor – grapples with regret and resentment while reflecting on their strained relationship.

To begin with, Tribhanga steers away from melodrama and a larger-than-life depiction of familial dynamics and endeavours to present layered emotions which essentially continue in a cyclical way.

On first instance, seeing ‘the three generations clash’ reminded me of Raj Kapoor’s Kal Aaj Aur Kal, whilst the mother-daughter rivalry made me nostalgic of Khalid Mohammed’s Tehzeeb.

However, the essence here attempts to be much more convoluted and shows several social subjects such as sexual abuse, mental health, domestic violence and single-parenthood.

Many of these revelations are shown through either flashbacks or ‘interviews’ by writer Milan (Kunaal Roy Kapur), who is penning Nayantara’s autobiography.

It is brave of Shahane to address these topics, however, many of these subjects are merely just touched upon rather than dealt with in a complete manner.

In fact, many of the relationships are not explored in as detail as the audience would’ve liked to see.

For instance, the route cause of Anuradha’s sour with her mother is due to dark circumstances. Rather than focusing more in detail on her struggles and overcoming them, the backstory is briefl summarised with some miscellaneous visuals.

Her passion for Odissi is instant and within a few snap-shots, we see how she suddenly becomes an exponent in this traditional dance form, which perhaps almost takes a lifetime to master.

Even her journey as an actor leaves us questions about what prompted Anuradha to make such decisions as well as her sentiments. It is such minute details, which create more compelling characters.

Plus, we get to see Anuradha’s brother Robindro (Vaibhav Tatwawaadi), who is a Hare Krishna devotee, quite extensively in the film.

But besides his religious belief, there is very less we know about him or his way in life. He delivers a spiritual dialogue during an interview, but otherwise, his dynamic with his mother is kind of left incomplete.

I understand that the film’s focus is on the three generations of women, however, covering these details would’ve completed the narrative and therefore, could’ve allowed audiences to feel invested in the characters and story.

With a running time of 1 hour and 35 minutes and a steady speed, the film’s content could’ve been quite easily divided into becoming a mini-series, with each episode covering sentiments, topics and roles more candidly.

Having said that, there are several tear-jerking moments which will make you exchange a glance at one’s mother or at least think about them.

Scenes where Anuradha sponge-baths her unconscious mother to her understanding the emotions of her daughter Masha (Mithila Palkar), there are definitely scenes which bring a tear to one’s eye.

Even some of the comedic scenes when Anuradha clashes with Milan on the language barrier and seeing an unlikely bond develop are also quite warm to observe.

Kajol, though, is outstanding, to say the least. If anything, it is her powerful presence and undisputable energy that drives this film from start to finish.

From her dialogue delivery to body language, each frame exhibits various sentiments of Anuradha. During the breakdown scenes and light-hearted moments, Kajol is absolutely natural and confident.

It seems like the days of characters like Anjali and Simran have gone past. With Kajol essaying characters like Anuradha, it marks the start of a new milestone in her career.

Mithila Palkar is another remarkable actor and she is equally strong in Tribhanga, as the married daughter of Anuradha. There are fragility and vulnerability in her performance.

Vaibhav Tatwawaadi is another great talent who shines in a solid supporting role. It is great that an actor of his calibre stands strong amongst other brilliant artists.

Tanvi Azmi appears in a coma for a good portion of the film, however, in the roles when she plays a remorseful and lonely mother, we feel empathy for her.

Given that the digital space nowadays is over-polluted by repetitive gangster-flicks, political commentary and gritty narratives, Tribhanga acts as a sigh of relief.

It is far from being a wholesome and a near-perfect product, however, this tale of a dysfunctional parent-child relationship and the delicacy of life makes it relatable during the lockdown. 

Most importantly, watch it for Kajol as with this film, her career is heading for a trailblazing and game-changing turn. 

⭐⭐⭐ (3/5 stars)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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