Three Of Us Runtime: 139minutes
When the director of a film is also its cinematographer, visual poetry is its tangible benefit. Director and cinematographer Avinash Arun Dhaware drops a few hints right away. Colleagues are bidding a fond farewell to Shailaja Madam (Shefali Shah) who counsels couples at the family court. At home, husband Dipankar (Swanand Kirkire) gently tells her there’s no salt in the food. When women gossip in the kitchen while the men drink in the hall at a casual party with friends, there’s a passing remark that Shailaja is coping rather well. Son Bharat, away at IIT, prefers chatting with his dad over the phone, adding that he doesn’t know how to cope with the routine ‘how are you doing’ question to his mother.
There’s obvious disturbance in the family but you aren’t sure what it is.
But Shailaja is sure that she wants to visit Vengurla, a village on the Konkan coast, where she spent a few years as a schoolgirl. Dipankar is mildly baffled, she’s never mentioned Vengurla before, but he gamely accompanies her.
It’s in that one week in coastal Maharashtra where Avinash Dhaware’s lens gets poetic right from Three Of Us written discreetly on the window of the train to Ratnagiri.Omkar Achyut Barve, Arpita Chatterjee and Varun Grover pitch in with Avinash for some refreshing writing.
For Shailaja, it’s a visit to an unexpressed part of her childhood especially the re-opening of a chapter with school friend Pradeep Kamat (Jaideep Ahlawat). For Dipankar, it’s sheer curiosity watching his wife re-discover all that she left behind and never mentioned to him in many years of marriage. For Pradeep’s wife Sarika (Kadambari Kadam), it’s sweet acceptance of his past, acknowledging with perception but without pettiness that his poetry is flowing freely ever since Shailaja’s surprise return.
The camera moves lovingly all over the village, the school, the house where Shailaja once lived, the temple, the dance class, the local mela. But it’s not all gurgling happiness. Shailaja has to also confront the well with a dark secret before she goes back to Mumbai. Alokananda Dasgupta’s music unobtrusively mixes with the mood, a dance number adding colour and movement to the past.
With Allu Arjun presenting it, there are a whole lot of impressive names that Dhaware thanks in the opening credits, including Shriram Raghavan, Vasan Bala, Abhishek Chaubey, Jaydeep Sahani and Chaitanya Tamhane (whose Marathi film Court was India’s entry at the Oscars in 2015 and The Disciple was feted by critics all over in 2020), which indicates the cinematic language used by Three Of Us.
Dipankar wondering aloud if Shailaja was ever this happy in their marriage, the gradual unfolding of Shailaja’s ailment, her need to re-live life before losing it all to dementia, and that moment on the ferris wheel when it stops for a while, freezing the chemistry with Pradeep before moving on, are warm cinematic moments.
‘Tomorrow will only come when today is played out,’ writes the poet in Pradeep. Shailaja has to play out yesterday and today before facing tomorrow. “What if I forget Bharat?” she asks Dipankar.
With Shefali, Jaideep, Swanand and Kadambari in top form, and Avinash Dhaware using his camera well, Three Of Us is a mix of nostalgia, a little bit of wit and coming to terms with yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Three Of Us – Watch Or Not?: It’s slow moving and not massy, more for those inclined to admire festival fare.