‘Three Of Us’ movie review: Shefali Shah and Jaideep Ahlawat paddle this sobering cycle of life to safety

‘Three Of Us’ movie review: Shefali Shah and Jaideep Ahlawat paddle this sobering cycle of life to safety
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Jaideep Ahlawat, Shefali Shah in ‘Three Of Us’

Time moves in one direction, memory in another. What happens when the natural synchronisation between the two starts to crumble? Filmmaker Avinash Arun’s contemplative film captures the disturbing stillness before the seismic waves of dementia dismantle the past of Shailaja (Shefali Shah) — a memory she treasures, a painful episode that she has locked in a vault. She is at a stage of life where marriage becomes a chore like breathing. Having worked in the divorce department of a family court in Mumbai, Shailaja knows how the nuts and bolts of a relationship wear down over time like the zestless but efficient Mumbai Local.

Her husband Dipankar (Swanand Kirkire) is like that. Into the business of selling fear through insurance plans, he is there for her without making his presence felt. Shailaja wants to travel back home to a sleepy Konkan town where she spent some crucial years of her adolescence before her memory fails her. Dipankar joins her and with them, we hop on to a lyrical journey that we all take in our mind after a certain age but seldom make an itinerary for. As we discover that the quiet Shailaja was quite a Mogambo in her childhood and that there was a Daga in her life, we are as surprised as Dipankar who starts questioning his relevance in her life. He can’t process the presence of another man in Shailaja’s life.

The Daga has grown up into Pradeep Kamat (Jaideep Ahlawat), a sedate bank manager who has a way with words. He rediscovers his poetic mojo when he suddenly meets Shailaja after more than two decades. Like Dipankar, his wife Sarika (Kadambari Kadam) is also taken aback by the sudden change in her partner but she also doesn’t turn bitter and gives space to Shailaja. It is not out of sympathy, since Shailaja doesn’t let anybody know about her deteriorating condition. It is just that she likes Shailaja’s urge to revisit her past one last time before it gets lost in a mist.

Three Of Us (Hindi)

Director: Avinash Arun Dhaware

Cast: Shefali Shah, Jaideep Ahlawat, Swanand Kirkire, Kadambari Kadam

Run-time: 88 minutes

Storyline: Grappling with early-stage dementia, Shailaja revisits her old home along the Konkan coast, where she is reunited with her childhood sweetheart

Avinash who has deftly unravelled the mystery of a child’s gaze in the past with Killa and School Of Lies, this time makes adults look back at the world they once inhabited. Devoid of the sappiness that such subjects tend to acquire, Avinash’s camera moves in sync with Varun Grover’s perceptive dialogues and Alokananda Dasgupta’s silently invasive background score to create an immersive experience.

Together, they light up an old flame in Shailaja’s life but don’t allow it to burn her present or that of Pradeep’s. It is this in-betweenness that makes us ponder and hold on to the story that touches upon the larger meaning of life where we tend to keep opening new chapters without coming to terms with those that we had left open in the past. Not dealing in binaries, the film addresses the fear or complexity of what if…, without making a show of it. Grover has lent several metaphors to make us ruminate over games memory and reality play. Be it Shailaja’s English teacher asking for the definition of a photograph or an old woman bringing alive the myth of a spirit, there is a lot between the lines in this seemingly straightforward narrative that makes you chuckle and weigh the baggage that our conscience carries as a ritual. The Ferris wheel towards the end becomes an obvious metaphor for the cyclicity of life.

There are passages where the self-awareness in writing starts coming in the way of the performers. The riveting Konkani milieu captured by Avinash without any frills demands that the story should have been told in Marathi. But then with Shefali and Jaideep language doesn’t matter. She has choreographed her eyes and gestures impeccably to create the void that is filling Shailaja’s life to etch the portrait of a woman who is anxious about losing her memory, her skills and her son but hasn’t turned cynical about her present. It beautifully comes through in the scene where Shailaja’s Bharatanatyam teacher asks Shailaja to show if she remembers her steps. The way she descends behind a pillar with a smile on her face leaves a lasting impression. So does Jaideep whose imposing physique melts when he talks about a childhood trauma that made him lose trust in men. Once again, the actor brings out the pain of a fractured heart with a wry smile.

Not for the nostalgia junkies, Three Of Us expects the audience to shed their masks.

Three Of Us is currently running in theatres

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