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Cinema Review: Three of Us

Have you crossed your late 40’s? You will be able to relate better to the Hindi movie Three of Us (2022) directed by Avinash Arun.

The beginning of the late 40’s is believed to signal a phase when individuals go through mid-career crisis, start believing in forgiving and forgetting and start yearning to meet their long-lost school and college mates. Today, thanks to digital technologies and social media apps, it is possible to reconnect with those people with whom we have lost touch and with whom we long to reestablish ties. The pandemic proved that life is so fragile and humans are so vulnerable!

 Cinema

Shailaja Desai nee Patankar (played brilliantly by Shefali Shah) has been diagnosed with dementia. She lives in Dadar (Mumbai) with her husband Dipankar Desai (a wonderful performance by well-known lyricist Swanand Kirkire). Shailaja has been working in the divorce court where she does all the paperwork to support the formalities for the legal separation sought by couples. She decides to retire from her job and requests her husband to take a one-week break so that they can visit Vengurla in Konkan. Their only son Bharat is studying engineering in one of the IITs.

Shailaja and Dipankar land in the beautiful and verdant Vengurla in the Konkan region. Soon she manages to meet everyone still living in Vengurla and is able to walk down memory lane. But the one person whom she had always wanted to meet and had assiduously avoided doing so is her silent admirer Pradeep Kamath (a riveting performance by the redoubtable Jaideep Ahlawat).

Shailaja is happy to meet him again after a gap of 28 years and as they both reminisce about their school days and visit their school and the classroom, Shailaja experiences temporal bliss. She forgets that she has progressive dementia. The happiness and radiance are so blatant on Shailaja’s face that at some point of time, her husband (he is not the typical male chauvinist husband though) asks her whether she was ever happy with him in their 28 years of marriage. Shailaja, admitting that they have led a mundane life all through, quips – “Can you recollect the last time we were sad?”

Shailaja visits the home in Vengurla where she had lived with her younger sister Venu and her parents. The visit re-opens and rakes up her past wounds. An unfortunate incident in which Venu slips into the well and passes away has made the family shift away from Vengurla. Unable to recall the trauma again, Shailaja exits her childhood home as quickly as she can.

Along with Pradeep and Dipankar, Shailaja traipses through Vengurla soaking in the warmth of the sylvan surroundings and experiencing elation meeting people whom she had bonded well as a school-going girl. She visits the dance school where she had learnt dance and even manages to practice a few steps. She also manages to visit the old lady residing in a small shanty on the banks of the sea-shore. Shailaja has had a bizarre relationship with this woman during her school days. This part of the narrative does sound a bit esoteric.  

Shailaja and Dipankar visit Pradeep at his home and are greeted warmly by his charming wife and two daughters. The characterization of Pradeep’s wife is a tad innovative – here is a woman who loves her husband deeply and acknowledges that he has had a childhood sweetheart – but there is no sense of bitterness regarding this. On the contrary, she is able to bond well with Shailaja.

Dipankar informs Pradeep about Shailaja’s precarious condition, shattering him for a moment. The week draws to a close and Shailaja and Pradeep are on the verge of returning to Mumbai.  

The climax could not have been more poignant. Pradeep and Shailaja board the giant wheel during the annual fair on the banks of the sea. When the wheel stops for a while, Shailaja wishes that the moment would continue forever. She uses the opportunity to apologize to Pradeep for her irreverent behaviour on the last day that they had met 28 years ago. There was a slight misunderstanding between them and Shailaja had never imagined that she would never meet Pradeep again. The movie ends on a sober note with Shailaja making a trip to the well in her childhood home where her sister Venu had drowned.

The music by Alokananda Dasgupta is exhilarating – particularly one falls in love with the Hindustani classical music and the captivating and soothing background score.  

The soul of the film shakes you out of your stupor as we realize the uncertainties and vicissitudes of our lives. As we advance in age and are forced to deal with age-related ailments that threaten to destabilize our normal routine, the period of longingness starts. Shailaja too desires to visit Vengurla before her memories fade away and is supported by her caring husband. She has had a tragic past – both her parents passed away in quick succession a few months after her marriage – this is something that propels her to become an atheist.

One wonders whether Shefali Shah had visited a dementia patient to understand the finer nuances of her character and deliver such an absorbing performance. She brings to life the character of Shailaja Desai Patankar – a soft spoken woman with abundance of fortitude and mental tenacity.

The sporadic blank look on her face as she struggles to remember things and the languid gait as she walks through the roads of Vengurla expose the viewers to the plight of a woman struggling with dementia. The measured tone through which she converses with her husband and her school mates reflect the agony that she is going through. But the agony is not just with regard to her illness. It has also to do with the tragedies in her life. Her empathy with Pradeep when he recounts his tragic past with a drunkard father who just vanishes from their home one fine day gives the viewer a vicarious sense of what a traumatic childhood could be.

Some scenes and dialogues in the movie deserve a special mention. Dipankar assuring his son to study for his exams and focus on his studies and not worry about his mother’s precarious condition presents a realistic portrayal of a family dealing with the threat of the woman of the house facing a debilitating illness like dementia. When Pradeep cannot remember whether he visited Parel or Parle during his visit to Mumbai earlier, Dipankar quips – Parel smells of the ocean while Parle smells of glucose biscuits. The penultimate scene in the movie where Shailaja asks Pradeep to recount the last day that they had met 28 years ago and then tells him that she may not remember it in the future is well written. Pradeep quipping that he would not forget it adds to the emotional quotient of this scene.

Every frame in the movie presents a realistic façade and we wonder why the Konkan region has never received publicity like God’s Own Country. Maybe our PM should visit the region once to provide a fillip to the marketing efforts to promote Konkan as a tourist destination. Swanand Kirkire excels in his role as a caring and warm husband ready to oblige his wife knowing her medical condition well and attempting to deal with the reality in a pragmatic fashion. Jaideep Ahlawat manages to remain subdued in a power-packed performance and his histrionic abilities shine through in the way he has brought the character of Pradeep Kamat to life. The carefully orchestrated responses and the caution exercised by him not to hurt Shailaja at any point of time speaks volumes about the acting competence of this talented actor whom Bollywood is yet to utilize fully. As reiterated earlier, Shefali Shah lives the role of Shailaja and proves that she is an outstanding actress that Bollywood had ignored all the while.

If you are beyond your 40’s and wish to revisit your childhood then “Three of Us” is certainly something that you should not miss. The aftereffects of watching this award-winning movie will linger with you for some time. An engaging narrative, mellifluous music, breathtaking locales, competent direction, sound production quality and awe-inspiring performances make “Three of Us” a delectable weekend watch.  

So, if you haven’t met any of your schoolmates so far and have an inner desire to do so, act now and act fast and do not forget to watch “Three of Us”.
 

More By  :  G. Venkatesh

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Comments on this Blog

Comment I watched the movie 'Three of Us' after reading your exhaustive review. Yes. It is a movie with a lot of poignancy and the inherent good nature of many humans around us. A movie to be watched and remembered for its realism and for touching the dormant emotions of humans. Thank you.

G Swaminathan
14-Jan-2024 23:07 PM






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