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‘Three of Us’ film review: A voyage into all our past lives


Express News Service

Shailaja Desai (Shefali Shah) stares a lot. While commuting on a bus, distractedly looking out of a window at work or sitting at a park bench, observing a game of cricket, her eyes are always wide open. It’s more than seeing, it’s imbibing. As if she is trying to capture in her mind-camera, the mundanities of a fading life.

When Three of Us opens, we don’t immediately know that Shailaja has dementia. She marks a to-do list, like any prudent homemaker would do. An awkward office farewell doesn’t seem like there is more to read into it. In a scene, her husband Dipankar (lyricist Swanand Kirkire), with a muted expression, tells her she forgot to add salt to a dish.

Initially, it feels like a mere chauvinist act, but all these moments get an additional layer of sorrowful meaning once we are privy to Shailaja’s condition. How everything she does is an act of holding on to a world, slipping from the clenches of her memory like sand between fingers.

She tells Dipankar she wants to go to Vengurla, a small Konkan town. “I don’t know if it is a city or a town,” says Shailaja, melancholically, unsure if she never knew or has forgotten the identity of a place that was her beginning. She stayed there for only three years, from Class 5 to 8, but for her it is the only place worth reliving.

When we travel with Dipankar and Shailaja to Vengurla, it feels like being splashed by a warm wave of nostalgia. As she walks around the town, looking at red-roofed Konkan houses, green fields and serene beaches, recollecting, retaining, you too go back to all the places that were once home. Director Avinash Arun, who was the cinematographer on Karwaan and Masaan, paints a soft picture of a sleepy Vengurla. A frail old man sits on the steps of a shop, holding the morning newspaper in his trembling hands. 

A feeble, elderly woman walks slowly with a basket of flowers. Arun treats his frames like a canvas, filling it with different colours of loss and longing. Shailaja is looking for her classmate Pradeep Kamat (Jaideep Ahlawat), somebody who was once a bit more than a childhood friend. Whenever she takes his name, she takes it full. “Pradeep Kamat.” Saying it out loud so that she doesn’t lose it. They meet with awkward smiles and lowered eyes, like two teen lovers mustering up the courage. Jaideep brings a poetic sweetness to Pradeep. 

An actor, who we first saw battering an opponent with a stone during a brawl in Gangs of Wasseypur (2012) lends an exceptional tenderness to this role. Swanand Kirkire too offers a calm restraint in his performance. He is a dutiful husband who couldn’t be a dreamy lover and that pains him somewhere. “I don’t remember when you were so happy with me,” he tells Shailaja, after they had a day out with Pradeep. An understanding man who still gets overpowered by his ego.

Shefali Shah is the looming ghost of the film. She conveys complex emotions from the deep of her eyes with a conviction that a writer of an expressive soliloquy can only dream of. It is a performance that digs a home in your heart.

Three of Us makes you take a trip down memory lane. Back into your own childhood, to the streets you once played at, the haunts where you once wandered. It brings back the forgotten stability of a simpler time. When mornings were only about watching the sun rays filter in from the windows. It also leaves us with a question. What do we live for?

Film: Three of Us
Director: Avinash Arun
Cast: Shefali Shah, Jaideep Ahlawat and Swanand Kirkire
Rating: 4/5

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