Kajol on her 'Tribhanga' role: I tend to go for stronger characters as I am a strong person
Bollywood actress along with director Renuka Shahane tackles the criticism coming their way post the release of the Netflix film
When a mainstream actress known for her top notch performances besides a propensity to dance atop snowy mountains in chiffon saris on the big screen makes her OTT debut in a family drama helmed by a woman director, it is bound to grab eyeballs. Even more so when the movie in question is Tribhanga - Tedhi Medhi Crazy, that despite its occasional missteps and theatrics, manages to wow you with an unapologetic celebration of three generations of flawed women, as bold and sassy as they come. Over a Zoom call, when we connect with the spirited Kajol and charming Renuka Shahane (Surabhi), the conversation is as free flowing as the movie itself, which dropped on Netflix recently. Both are upfront about facing the criticism coming their way post the release of the movie. “If a person is saying they found it really boring or not up to the mark or patchy — whatever the reaction, they are extremely valid for me as a director/writer and I don’t think there is any right or wrong,” Shahane, who marks her directorial debut on the OTT platform with Tribhanga explains.
Overwhelmingly, she points out, even critics have given the movie a good score and she is humbled by the overall reaction. She is very matter-of-fact that despite their honest work and conviction “there are going to be people who are not going to relate to it (Tribhanga). There are people who don’t like you in life, there are people who are indifferent and that is the way we all are. Why should I feel upset about it? So all sorts of reactions are welcome.”
She also points out that a lot of people who love Kajol or her in Hum Aapke Hain Koun have a huge problem with the gaalis (cuss words) in the film. They’ve gone to the extent of saying the film would have been excellent without it.
“But I’d also like this dialogue to be opened up that it is not a question of OTT platform,” she avers, “it was a requirement of the character and the actor has put in such a lot of conviction that you don’t think it is something that is not her character.”
“So let’s try and be a little less judgmental about it. It’s a learning process and all these things are only going to help me become better in my craft.”
Tribhanga revolves around the life of three Marathi women — writer Nayan (Tanvi Azmi), her daughter Anuradha (Kajol) and granddaughter Masha (Mithila Palkar), the first two as bold and nonconformist as they come and the latter who seems bent on following the more traditional path so as not to pass down the pain and bitterness she inherited to her offspring. While all three women stand apart, Kajol infuses Anu with her unique stamp that at times it is difficult to separate the actor from the character. Her pitch in the movie has come in for reproval from certain quarters, but one that Shahane explains away as the demand of the character, and a tone she had worked out with the actor ahead of the shoot. Kajol interrupts to say there were instances when she was taken aside and told that the pitch “needs to go higher. Because this is Anu, she needs to be bigger than this.”
The kind of reactiveness Anu has, was exactly what she wanted, the first time director explains especially since the character was moulded on a couple of close friends of hers who are warm, wonderful and very impetuous in the way they react to things. “They are combative almost, they swear and they are constantly judged for that,” she says.
Shahane who asserts there is a bit of Nayan, Anu and Masha in her, confesses she hadn’t thought of a huge commercial star like Kajol while writing the character. It was her producer Siddharth Malhotra (who she refers to as the rock behind her project) who told her that Anu has to be played by Kajol and pushed her to take her “experimental” script to the actress. “That’s how Kajol stepped in and because she did, the rest of the movie was made!”
Those who have seen Tribhanga will aver that there is a whole lot of Kajol, as we know her, in the character of Anuradha Apte. She is loud, fearless and sassy. “There is no way you can play your part convincingly without putting some part of yourself into it,” Kajol explains. “There are lots of me in her and lots of Anu in me. I like Anu as a character; I think she is cool, I agree with what she says, 90 per cent of the time!”
A lot has been said about the advantages of women telling women’s stories, and Kajol also asserts that Tribhanga could have only been written by a woman. “I tend to go for stronger characters because I am a strong person,” she says. “It’s a little alien for me to play a weak character.”
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A few viewers have lauded Tribhanga for attempting to normalise bad parenting but that’s not a tag both seem comfortable with. “The point is that they (the mothers) set out not thinking this is the consequence for the children; that you can’t really think of all the perspectives before taking the decision,” she explains. All Shahane wants is for people to see parents as human beings especially mothers. “Give them kudos for doing what they do; it is a very difficult job.”
Kajol adds that people tend to forgive a lot more in any other relationships — be it between a husband and wife, or brother and sister. “They are more forgiving of sisters, they are more forgiving of wives, even husbands…
“We put motherhood into this tiny box, where she can’t even put one foot outside — ‘You don’t know to cook??? You are a bad mother’; ‘You don’t go pick up your kids from school?? You are a bad mother.’
“There are no perfect people, there are no perfect mothers and there are no perfect relationships.”
“For us to put mothers on a pedestal and say, you have to stay there, is harmful to us as children; it is harmful for us as mothers.”
That’s also probably one reason Tribhanga is not judgmental and boldly portrays its ‘flawed’ women; be it Nayan whose writing makes her walk away from a traditional marriage and seek fulfillment elsewhere; or Anu, who clings on to her freedom as a single mother and believes in telling the world exactly what she thinks of it; or even Masha who is forced to undergo a gender reveal test by her conservative in-laws; there are no raised eyebrows or attempt to moralise.
Tribhanga is streaming now on Netflix.