By Babli Yadav
It is 4.45 pm and the sun has just hit the neighbour’s window. It is glowing, almost as if telling me something private. I wonder if anyone else can see what I do. The descending sun’s reflection on windows and walls between 4.30 to 5 pm is one of my best discoveries. I am extremely drawn to natural lights, and their reflections, shadows. And when I watched Marathi filmmaker Akshay Indikar’s Trijya (2019) recently, I wondered if he is too. The sun has no sound effects, only light. And Trijya is soaked in surround sounds.
Sounds within. Sounds outside. Artificial sounds that feel like a slap on the ears, natural sounds that are gentle cupping of the face. Sounds that birth from the well we carry inside, sounds that birth from falling into it. Some sounds shake us, some silence our being, some are like earthquakes that force us to let go of the land beneath and shift our continents. Sounds that are vibrations, callings. Soothing, screeching! Sounds that are death and then revival.
Trijya, recipient of the National Film Award for best Audiography (2021) is the story of a young man Avdhut who lives in a giant bubble of sounds. The acoustics are solid, and seldom allow him to dive into his well and swim in his inner sounds. The calm churning of moving waters. He feels lost, disconnected. But he is a seed that needs to find his earth and grow roots, deeper roots, aerial roots and then grow to be one with the sky. And thus, begins his journey to the centre of his own being, trudging the radius of his life.
Avdhut Kale played by Abhay Mahajan is slow and sensitive; he absorbs more, exudes less. He is a poet. He prefers stillness but is drawn to constant movement. He is deeply intuitive and intelligent. And filmmaker Indikar knows how to play around with his audience. Perhaps, in order to ascertain how deeply they get involved in his work, the protagonist’s character and the plot are subtly decoded in the first few minutes itself, after which the mystic nature of Trijya snail paces its due course.
One of the opening scenes of Trijya co-written by Kshama Padalkar and Indrikar, shows Avdhut, a vernacular print journalist helping his colleague write for the astrology section. And while on the outside, it may appear like he is casually and playfully creating the fate of each sign, he is simply and subconsciously in conversation with himself, almost narrating his life.
“You are stuck somewhere. Get out, wander about. No matter how much you fill the jar with water, it will never be full. Keep that in mind and get down to work. This is all you will get, don’t talk much, be quiet. You are wandering too much, be in line. If not this one (girl), you will get another. There are many girls out there. Who says you exist? Doubt your existence.”
Avdhut then clarifies his stance with, “People like to hear what they can’t understand or comprehend ”.
A sense of journey is clear throughout the film cinematographed by Indikar and Swapnil Shete. There are long, barren roads flanked by barren golden fields, sweet reminiscent of an Abbas Kiarostami film, there is endless walking, trains crossing milestones, its reflection dancing in deep waters, crossing of tall, revolutionary railway bridges. The length of the film travels in five parts. And in each part, situations, people, positioning of his own inner churning push the protagonist further into the next segment of his life.
From time to time, the filmmaker ensures the incoherent sounds are replaced by melodic storytelling of folklores, metaphysical folk, classical music that echo in Avdhut’s surroundings like a calling, a guiding force. Poetic verses are music too, to those who can find the rhythm in them. The ever-thinking protagonist’s concerns, conflicts, and thoughts are conveyed through his poetry throughout the film.
But to say that Trijya is the story of Avdhut alone would be wrong. It is also the story of migrant workers of Maharashtra who work along these empty roads to factory-produce jaggery, crush stones into powdery concrete, mechanically shape clay into tiles, and build damning river dams knowing what havoc they bring into the lives of people in those areas. It is also the story of construction women workers who give birth in the middle of the night without any medical assistance and then go on to feed hungry mouths who help them deliver the child. It is the story of young, jobless, naive men who hail from villages and fall for marketing cons to make it big in the city and become wealthy without much effort. It is the story of a humble village family who can’t make sense of their only educated son’s need to be disillusioned and cut off, not adhere to the humdrum of life.
Avdhut is aware and conscious of all these realities and hence, too skeptical of giving life a fair chance. He is protecting himself and protecting everyone else who may get sucked into his blankness.
But every tunnel must end, and light or not, there is always rain; restarter of all things dried and deserted. A ficus grows in all adversities, even out of the womb of the hardest rocks; bursting showers of a waterfall, its source of rejuvenation. Perhaps, at last, Avdhut allows his inner river to flow. Or so, as an audience, we hope.
While it may be easy to be drawn to Avdhut’s character in today’s world where solitude is a highly embraceable quality, to me it felt like a flawed structure, not worthy of idolising. Apart from being visibly pessimistic, he is egoistic with a tinge of subtle superiority complex, a trait that deep thinkers carry knowing, unknowingly. He is very comfortable playing carrom all by himself; shifting from his place to another’s for every move, but won’t make the effort to confess his feelings to his lover. Or share with his family, even his confidant sister, what he is going through. He feels lost, hopeless, and helpless despite having the means to make a difference and help others. He is a city-educated village boy in a steady income job as his lesser-entitled friends see him. Yet he has nothing to offer even to the old lady sitting by the roadside begging for kindness. At one point, his self-consumption and frustration draw him to suffocate and kill the woman, even if only in his thoughts. However, eventually, Avdhut is pulled to his innate nature, to the forest and the folk, to his core, the well that he has carried all along, replenished at last.
I, too, am reminded that nothing in nature works fiercely independently. Everything is interconnected. Ecosystems sustain with one another not without. At one point, Indikar’s Avdhut reminded me of author Italo Calvino’s Smog where the protagonist despite having a visibly fair life, can see nothing but dirt and darkness, until he stumbles upon a “meadow of white sails” with the entire city’s clean, bright laundry hung out to dry.
Some of us are like that. The artistic, poetic, high feeler, carrier of all things weighty, acting at our own pace and fancy, kinds. We rather stay still and bid farewell to the passing sun by staring at its reflection most days at 4:45 pm. On a good day capture it, on a better day, turn it into gold.
Trijya, to me, is an outcome of many such golden captures. And kudos to the entire team for taking time to pause, stare, and see it through and through. More power to your tribe!
Babli Yadav is a freelance journalist based in Bangalore, India. Apart from feature stories, she writes creative non-fiction and poetry. A lover of arthouse cinematic experiences, she finds solace in films with subtitles, and trees.
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