A meditation on myth and memory, Avinash Arun’s Three of Us made a very late arrival on Netflix in December. And it is for everyone’s cinematic good that it did because it means now more people can experience the sublime beauty of this poignant story about love, loss, and the memories that make us.
Despite premiering at the International Film Festival of India on November 24, 2022, Three of Us only got a theatrical release in India in November 2023 before arriving on Netflix on December 29th. Starring a trifecta of powerhouse performers—Shefali Shah, Swanand Kirkire, and Jaideep Ahlawat—Three of Us tells the story of a woman trying to cling on to who she is after a dementia diagnosis.
The movie begins with Shah’s Shailaja Desai, who works at the Family Court, retiring early surrounded by beloved colleagues she seems to be vaguely detached from already.
One day, her mind finds its way to a long-forgotten memory of a place she grew up in. Shailaja, along with her husband Dipankar (Kirkire), travels to the small, picturesque town of Vengurla along the Konkan coastline, where the film languishes through the scenic lanes and bylanes of Shailaja’s childhood. She meets old friends and acquaintances and reconnects with Pradip (Ahlawat), someone who could’ve been more than a friend in another lifetime.
Avinash Arun, who has primarily worked as a cinematographer before, uses Three of Us as his cinematic canvas. He takes his time to paint the world around Shailaja, Dipankar, and Pradip in vivid hues, framing them against lush greenery, old forts, and nostalgia-tinted homes and hovels. The film is like sensory poetry in motion. The dialogues by Varun Grover and Shoaib Zulfi Nazeer are liltingly poetic. Alokananda Dasgupta’s music will tug at your heartstrings just as unintrusively as the story will creep in to linger in your heart and mind long after the curtains have fallen.
Co-written by Avinash Arun, along with Omkar Achyut Barve and Arpita Chatterjee, Three of Us has been compared with Celine Song’s Past Lives because, at first glance, there is a resemblance. But that similarity is singular because both the films are stunningly beautiful in their own right, perhaps Three of Us slightly more so. Three of Us treats memory like a myth. There is a hint of magic in the fading reality of life. We can never know where truth begins and where our childhood flights of fancies end. Were the ceilings of our homes as high or the rooms as big? Did the witch of the forest really exist, or was she a blurred manifestation of our heightened imaginations not yet numbed by the realities of life? Here, explorations of the past transcend mere recollection.
Swanand Kirkire and Jaideep Ahlawat are terrific in their stoic quietude. Even Kadambari Kadam, as Pradip’s wife, Sarika Kamat, brings her character to life with nuance and complexity in a shorter role. But, of course, the belle of the ball is Shefali Shah. If you thought you had seen the best of Shah, let her surprise you once more as she tucks in a solitary jasmine in her hair and steps out in search of redemption and closure before everything fades once and for all.
In the end, Three of Us is deeply existential. It becomes a vessel, carrying us through the labyrinth of nostalgia, where the colours of reality and fantasy meld into an exquisite palette, painting a portrait of our past, present, and future with bold and delicate strokes. It asks us who we are ultimately, if not the regrets and mistakes stitched together with fleeting moments of joy and happiness. It settles on you like a cool afternoon shower on a muggy day. If cinema could embody the essence of Petrichor, Three of Us would undoubtedly be its visual symphony.
Three of Us is one of the best Hindi films of 2023, so stream it on Netflix now.