After watching Tribhanga, one thing is for certain: you may be able to take Kajol out of Bollywood, but you can never take the Bollywood out of her. Channelling pre-makeover Anjali from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai at all times, Kajol makes sure to give her 150% to every scene, even if it requires a far more modest tempo. However, she cannot be the only one at fault for the weird concoction that is Tribhanga. From the director, to the dialogue writers, to each individual actor, all seem to be operating on different frequencies throughout the film, almost never singing the same note.
Watch the trailer of "Tribhanga" here
Directed and written by Renuka Shahane, Tribhanga sets out with noble intentions. At its core is a lesson in the futile effort of being better parents that the ones you suffered, the large cost of living life on your own conditions and why, despite all of it, it is still the right way to live.
The story is told through three generations of women. At the head of the totem pole is Nayantara (Tanvi Azmi), the acclaimed novelist with particularly bad choice in men. She hops from one divorce to another, dragging her two children along. In her ignorant selfishness, she causes unforgivable harm to her daughter, Anuradha (played by Kajol).
Anuradha, starts believing her mother's ignorance is actually proof of her evil, stone-cold heart. She pledges to correct her mother's mistakes, decides never to marry, or bring any strange men close to her own daughter, Masha (played by Mithila Palkar), who is 'born out of wedlock'. However, for Masha, who was bullied all through her childhood for her mother's modern relationships and many boyfriends, Anuradha was anything but a perfect mother. She, instead, promises herself a traditional family setup, conservative to the point of toxic, just so her child never has to suffer the same taunts as her. The cycle continues with every generation, proving nothing but that there is no perfect way to be a mother.
This family begins a journey to catharsis and forgiveness when Nayan, while in the process of recording her autobiography, suffers a brain stroke and goes into a coma. The triumvirate comes together, speaks of the hurt they have caused and the apologies they must make.
Overall, Renuka's story is not without merit. However, it's everything else that fails to shoulder it. Kajol and Tanvi get the lion's share of the story and Mithila gets merely a couple of scenes in a film that is supposed to be about a trinity of women. Kajol eats up the screen with her initially surprising and later pretentious use of colourful language. She screams and swears, taking a breath only to shed a lonesome tear.
She fluctuates from hurt to absolutely giddy to ugly crying and the transition is never subtle. Tanvi, still, manages to pull her weight despite being in a coma for half her screen time. She is the less chaotic, more mature foil (and respite) to Kajol.
However, the most annoying addition to the mix is Kunaal Roy Kapur's Milan, the writer charged with writing Nayan's autobiography. He is intolerable with his saintly personality and excessively cartoonish usage of pure Hindi, last heard in the summer of AD 2020, amid Doordashan's second wave of Ramayana fever. Kunaal singlehandedly ruins a half decent film.
But it is not just him, the dialogues are clunky for everyone, especially when they are not in Marathi (I have no way of proving it but it did sound nice to my ignorant ears). Intentions and hearts change over just a couple of minutes, cathartic moments unfold in front of your eyes, people are forgiven, tears are shed and none of it makes half an impact on you. The dialogue is so damp and lifeless, nothing the actors do makes a difference.
Tribhanga may have turned out better in a different world but a lot of things would have to be changed to make a positive, strong difference. However, as Nayan says in the film about her parenting choices, she does wish to go back and do things differently. But she cannot. All she can do is apologise.
We will take the apology, too.