Tribhanga: Empowerment through Generations

Words by Aena Rizvi

Back in college, we once had a discussion in our class on the topic: Is patriarchy still prevalent in urban areas as well? The girls who spoke against the motion put forward a point- if girls are allowed to put forward their opinion freely in society, if girls are allowed to follow their dreams choose their careers and if girls are allowed to choose their own husbands then how can patriarchy exist in urban societies? Well, this kinda sounded like: if my family is able to afford three-square meals then it implies that the country is not poverty-stricken. 

There is one thing that most of us do not understand. No society is perfect! Even if you’re getting all sorts of privileges doesn’t mean that every person belonging to the same society will be enjoying the same. There are loopholes in every society and through those loopholes, social evils like patriarchy sneak in. 

Tribhanga, written and directed by Renuka Shahane, describes society pretty well. Although the term has been used to describe the protagonist, my interpretation of this term applies more to society. According to the protagonist, she is the Tribhanga mudra of the Odissi dance as she is ‘tedhi, Medhi and crazy’. Well, so is society!

The movie shows how patriarchy prevails through three generations. No matter how progressive or regressive your family is, a woman is always considered to be the weaker sex. It is also shown that is not always men who impose such a mentality. Often fellow women catalyze such attitude. 

The story is of Nayantara (Tanvi Azmi), her daughter Anuradha aka Anu (Kajol), and her granddaughter Masha (Mithila Palkar). Nayantara has been a dreamer and a rebel. She is a writer and has faced irreparable consequences in her personal relationships because of her devotion to writing. Anu, being her mother’s daughter, is a rebel too who doesn’t want to repeat her mother’s mistakes. Anu was an actress and now an Odissi dancer. Masha is very different from both, her mother and grandmother. She has dreams of her own but she doesn’t openly state them. 

The only thing common between these three is that they share the same desire, the desire to be able to make choices of their own. There are places where the story misses the mark. But the concept is remarkable altogether. 

All the characters are interesting, braving their respective odds and making their own mark in the world of womanhood. On the other hand, the screenplay doesn’t seem to make wonders. The concept has a stature but the narrative stands way simplistic. The protagonist, Anu’s character has been written such strongly. She is portrayed to be all bold and carefree but she requires cuss words to bring power into her dialogues. Well, it is fine for me if a girl is cussing her heart out on the silver screen but strong characters need powerful dialogues. Nayantara’s character was well written, even in terms of dialogues. Whereas, Masha’s character stays hidden somewhere until the second half. 

The movie has kept male characters in the supporting role only except that of Milan played by Kunal Roy Kapur. He is the male spectator in the lives of these three women. He is assisting Nayantara with her autobiography. The best part about his character is that he never mansplains any of them and patiently listens to each one of them. 

If I have to recommend Tribhanga to anyone, I would recommend it basis the fact that it talks about flawed society, flawed women, and flawed relations. It shows how mothers across generations tend to repeat the same things/mistakes which were done by their respective mothers. Bollywood needs more such stories but with a better script and execution.

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