Tribhanga, mother-daughter bonds and more: a conversation with Renuka Sahane
Often, societal pressures also force children to put their mother or parents on a pedestal and not question them, says Sahane
The choices parents make can ruin their children’s lives. There isn’t much they can do to go back and put things back in order. And, sometimes, they may never be able to articulate an apology or clean up the mess they made. And, when you put the pieces together as an adult and swear never to be that kind of mother, you probably end up making the same mistakes.
No one is perfect, let alone your parents.
This is largely the theme of filmmaker Renuka Shahane’s directing business, Tribhanga, a Netflix original. She explores the damaging consequences of parenting choices on children by recounting the lives of three women – acclaimed writer, Nayantara (played by veteran actor Tanvi Azmi), her resentful and fiery daughter and actor-dancer, Anuradha (Kajol ), and a docile Masha (Mithila Palkar), who has his own crosses to carry. Nayantara has a stroke and goes into a coma, which brings the family together in the hospital who must face difficult and bitter memories of the past.
However, Shahane (famous for anchoring the iconic India TV show, Surabhi and to be the sweet bhabhi of Salman Khan Hum Aapke Hain Kaun…!), takes a bold and unapologetic stance on the choices her female characters make in her film.
Nayantara leaves her marriage with her two children to be able to pursue her literary career in peace and enters into a reckless relationship with a young man. She allows him to enter her home and the lives of her vulnerable children, not knowing her true character. Her unconventional lifestyle affects her children on all fronts.
In an interview with FederalShahane explains his approach in the film, “We tend to praise our mothers or take them for granted. But, it is rare to see representations of mothers, who want to be treated as individuals. I want people to empathize with mothers. They are also human and can make mistakes by ignoring the effect their actions have on their children.
Often, societal pressures also force children to put their mother or parents on a pedestal and not question them, she adds.
Shahane, the daughter of famous Marathi writer and art critic, Shanta Gokhale, however, shares a warm relationship with her own mother. Because she says about her mother: “My mother has been my main influence throughout my life. Whatever I am, my thoughts, my values, the kind of exposure I had as a child, everything is linked to my mother. She is the center for me.
So when Shahane once overheard a woman publicly expressing her hatred and contempt for her mother, she was taken aback and decided to delve into this complex and nuanced mother-daughter relationship. And, in 2018, when Bollywood director-producer Sidharth Malhotra, (who made We are a family, another Kajol actor) read the script, he loved it and brought it to actor Kajol.
“Once she got on board, the rest of the cast fell into place. And Ajay Devgn came in as a producer, ”Shahane remembers happily. Although it took her six long years to write the screenplay (as she was busy being an active mom), it took her two years to shoot and finish the movie.
“I had taken a sabbatical from the movies but it was my husband (Bollywood actor Ashutosh Rana) who reminded me of my dream of directing,” reveals Shahane, whose first outing as a director dates back to 2009, when she adjusted her mother’s price. winning marathi novel, Rita Welingkar in a movie.
“It was a long and tedious journey to write Tribhanga because there were days when I had nothing to write. But tedious travel always has good ends. I am overwhelmed by the response from my Netflix movie. My feet aren’t on the ground, actually, ”she said bluntly.
Self-taught filmmaker, Shahane had learned cinema from the famous Marathi cinema and theater director Vijaya Mehta, while assisting him on a medical television series, Safety rope. in 1991. “I learned cinema from her, I consider her to be my guru,” admits Shahane, who has also worked in theaters for decades.
In addition, Shahane, who has appeared in numerous Bollywood and Marathi films, spent his time on movie sets chatting with sound technicians and filmmakers in the art of cinema.
Additionally, she also had the chance to soak up the intricacies of filmmaking while working for legendary Bollywood production house Rajshri. She remembers: “I used to go to the sets of Hum Aapke Hain Kaun an hour and a half before my make-up call. Soorajji (director Sooraj Barjatya) would discuss the scenes of the day to shoot with his assistants and I would be one of them. The movie was extremely special to me, the way my character turned out was all because of Sooraji. He is a unique person. Shahane plays a central role as Madhuri Dixit’s sister in the film.
It was, however, director Aziz Mirza, (Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman, Yes Boss, etc.,) who had convinced her that comedy was her true vocation. Shahane had starred in the famous Mirza television series Circus in 1989, playing the role of a girl in love, in love with Shah Rukh Khan). Although she was successful as an actress, the realization was always on her mind.
Work with Kajol in Tribhanga was also “absolutely amazing,” she said.
“Kajol is an extremely spontaneous, completely natural actress. Only I had to be careful because his first and second takes are always his best. If you ask her to do a third or fourth, she is a little wary. The other players therefore had to mobilize themselves to give the best of themselves in just two takes, ”she reveals.
Making a film for OTT also gave him the freedom to make the film without any fear of censorship. There are a lot of swear words in the movie about Kajol’s character (who is in great shape swearing four letter words on the drop of a hat).
“If I had to make this movie for the big screen, I would have to water down a lot in the movie. Fortunately, Netflix supported me, ”she admits. OTT platforms like Netflix support “women’s voices” and encourage different types of stories, allowing Indian audiences to learn about a wide range of stories and multiple ways of telling a story, she says.
“In turn, this will affect what we are going to put in place in the commercial space. People watch so much good content today that they also expect better content from commercial cinema. You can no longer give up or speak to the public. They’re up there now, and you better talk to them. It’s an incredible change and it’s happening more and more as we speak, ”Shahane says.
Commenting on recent controversies over OTT films for offending peoples’ religions and sensitivities, Shahane says, “I feel for the people who are being taken to court. Also look at poor Richa Chadha (the poster for her latest film, Madam Chief Minister was criticized on social media for portraying the Dalit community in a bad light). Someone gets up and says something and it becomes a problem. “
“You can’t see just one kind of story in a movie. Cinema is a creative art like poetry and art, people have different stories to tell. The more we become globalized and connected, the more regressive and parochial we are. It’s so medieval, I don’t know where this road will end, ”she says sadly.
However, in her case, she is happy that Tribhanga is widely accepted and not seen through the narrow lens of a “woman’s story”. Now that is the bright side of the changing face of Indian cinema.