Like Masaan, Three Of Us is a film that will be relished for very long. This film addresses the yearning, many of us have for our childhood memories, as we age and dementia that no Indian film female protagonist has ever been given as a role to portray. This isn’t an easy topic to grasp. Dealing with a disease like dementia is extremely challenging for the caregivers and the sufferers.
Dementia patients progressively become strangers to themselves and to the world around them. It is akin to the slow death of the mind, that gradually loses itself, drop by drop like a broken tap in a parched land, as their memories fade.
The decline is like a game of hide and seek. Every now and then a memory strikes and then it ebbs away like the tide that mixes in the depths of the dark ocean bed. Dementia patients find themselves at a spot that they once belonged to and in a jiffy all of it vanishes. What remains are questions and incoherence.
Why 'Three Of Us' Feels Personal, Too
It resembles a canvas that once had a huge elaborate painting and suddenly, what remains is the stark emptiness, without a trace of colour. The struggle is to keep things in order inside the mind.
Watching the brilliantly, poignant film Three Of Us, left me recalling my father’s decline with dementia. His extremely erudite mind losing its grip over time, people and places.
It used to leave me baffled that for someone who remembers arbit dates of wars fought in the most remote parts of India and the world, suddenly couldn’t comprehend anything around him. Initially, I didn’t understand how to navigate my extremely well-read father, speaking gibberish. He often told me that he was sure that his blood had radium. Each dialysis session was depleting the radium level in his blood.
Post watching the film, I travelled back to the memory of my father in the Manipal Dialysis Unit in Bengaluru, sitting in his wheelchair, as he complained that they forced him to give blood. I was standing in shock, confusion and fear. The doctors came and told me that his dementia was increasingly going to debilitate him. I found it hard to believe and even harder to understand.
Of Longing & Lifelong Connections
In the film The Three Of Us, the subject is dementia in a female protagonist, Shefali Shah. This made me break into smithereens because women and men suffering a life-altering disease are treated differently in society and homes, only basis their gender. I had to remind myself frequently, that this is a film.
Three Of Us is a languid film with a brilliant music score. The longing lens of the camera on the protagonist, is magical, as we watch her expressing her desire to visit her childhood town in Mangalore, to meet her classmate and ex-love, Pradeep played by Jaideep Ahlawat. The film shows her taking the trip from Mumbai with her husband, played by Sawanand Kirkire.
The camera work is so real, that you travel with Shefali Shah, as you watch her at her farewell party, then at home, being the wife, without questioning gender roles, as she gets up to serve her husband extra salt in the poha she had cooked. Equally brilliant is the portrayal of the comfortable silence between couples, in a marriage, of many years. We walk with her as she searches for the familiarity of her childhood home in the Konkan area.
In this sublime, poetic and moving film Three Of Us, the music is unbeatable and the characters are played gently without any force.
The final scene that leaves one choking is when Shefali Shah is sitting on the floor as her head is being massaged with oil by Sawanand Kirkire, she expresses her fear of realising that maybe one day soon, she won’t be able to recognise her only child, her son. This is so real and terrifying.
This film captures, the longing for our childhood memories, the closure of some painful moments and the moist, ocean-drenched, idyllic life of a South Indian small town, where the lanes are narrow and clean. The people living there are in no hurry in life. Which is almost envious. Each of them seems to be acquainted with one another with respect and dignity. Marriages that have healthy friendships warm the heart, making you realise that this too is real.
Three Of Us is a film that has broken the recent genres in artistic filmmaking.
Views expressed are the author's own.
Mohua Chinappa is an author and podcaster of a successful podcast called The Mohua Show.
Suggested reading: Piercing, Loving, Sensual, Tired: The Many Gazes Of Shefali Shah