Ukranian filmmaker Dar Gai‘s (Daria Gaikalova) first Indian film (released for festivals in 2017, but finding its wider digital release only now in 2019 on Netflix) Teen aur Aadha has an interesting film premise when a house, more specifically a room, becomes a constant character across three different stories along its maturing timeline, with almost a common theme of central characters in each story wanting to break free off the confines of the same room. It becomes even more interesting when the each of the three stories are shot as continuous forty minutes long shots each without any cuts, as if trying to follow the arc of the protagonists up close.
Named Yamraaj, Natraaj and Kaamraaj respectively, each segment traces three different shades of companionships between unlikely individuals who are trying to discover new things about themselves, about the other, and about life at different stages of youth, adulthood and old age. They all seek more than what life has given them, and they want to use their own tools of innocence, lust and love to break free. The room responds to the flavor of the story, and gets almost unrecognizable from its earlier avatar courtesy a new makeover each time. The atmospherics also adjust to the tale in point accordingly. It is hence only logical that the final half segment of the film Yakshraaj sees through the complete cycle of life for the room and is almost caught preparing it for a fresh new cycle.
And yet Teen aur Aadha does not become the film it aspires to be, since the stories by themselves are not gripping enough. Only the middle segment Natraaj stands out, courtesy some good writing, its build up to the end, the chemistry between two strangers, and excellent performances from both Jim Sarbh and Zoya Hussain. The otherwise bland third segment Kaamraaj is redeemed by the natural free flowing act of an old couple rediscovering each other, that veteran actors Suhasini Mulay and M K Raina ace even when they don’t have particularly strong writing to support them. Yamraaj appeared the weakest of the three segments for me, and that is a problem because it doesn’t start the film on a very strong footing. There is so much more it could have achieved as it had the craft of Anjum Rajabali by its side, but him along with Arya Dave pale along with the insipid writing for this one. The overall film also suffers from the fact that each of the segments do not transition too well from one to the other, and the viewers end up feeling the jerks, especially when they have been shown a complete story arc in one long shot till that point.
I couldn’t help but remember how Hrishikesh Mukherjee had used a similar kind of premise of a house being a constant character in three shifting stories back in 1950s with Musafir, and that film found its legs more with its writing back then. Dar Gai of course makes up for some of the writing lacuna by strengthening the technical aspects of the film with camera work, sound and production design, and some sort of a thematic consistency. And hence, Teen aur Aadha deserves a watch because of all it’s aesthetic qualities, its unique storytelling style, and its intent to deliver something fresh and different. The film is now playing on Netflix.