'Trijya — Radius': Film Review | Shanghai 2019

'Radius - Trijya' still - H 2019
Courtesy of Bombay Berlin
A mood piece for the young.

A young Indian poet embarks on a journey of self-discovery in Akshay Indikar’s first feature.

A young poet seeks the still point in a turning world in Akshay Indikar’s Marathi-language film Trijya — Radius, an unusually sensitive and well-made coming-of-age drama that should connect particularly with questioning under-30s. The German-Indian coprod, which premiered in Shanghai’s Asian New Talent Award competition, brings a sophisticated point of view as well as a sad aching to the hero’s search for answers to the perennial questions about life’s purpose. One can feel how personal a film it is to the 27-year-old director.

Time is a central theme, like Avdhut’s (Abhay Mahajan) resistance to being forced to follow it slavishly, and a corollary is that the pace is meditative and slow-moving.  We meet Avdhut, a good-looking boy in a beard and a clean shirt, at the newspaper where he occasionally works. He is helping a colleague compose the daily astrology column, tossing out pregnant two-liners like “Pisces. Who says you exist? Doubt your existence.” Funny business, it gives a quick glimpse into his unfettered imagination and ironical view of conventions.

Though his editor calls on him to write tabloid-selling shaggy dog stories, the boy is a poet and, judging by the lines he recites in the film, not an ordinary one. Even though he doesn’t have a steady income, he’s under pressure from his family to “get married and settle down.” It’s hard to imagine this free spirit starting a life with the silent girl in a sari who comes round to his house with her parents to get acquainted. Instead, a casual bookstore encounter with a young woman he used to know (Aarya Rothe) ends in the brief shot of a rumpled bed, more in keeping with his character.

His family has moved to Pune from their native village and seem on the edge of poverty. In a poignant scene, Avdhut connects with an old schoolmate from the village, who is grasping at straws to find a job and a future for himself. Their evening together is half-carefree, half-wistful and melancholy.

When he is in his depressed loner mood, Avdhut seems a little out of it. He is constantly taking trains and watching the fast-moving scenery zip past. One time, he is riding a train without a destination or a ticket and is caught by the conductor. When posed the age-old questions, “Where did you come from, and where are you going?” he has to admit he doesn’t know. Threatened with a week in jail, he gets out of it by paying for his ride with a poem. One imagines that, like Adam Driver’s bus driver-poet in Paterson, he is absorbing sights and sounds that will fuel his art, while he strays farther and farther from the normal life he’s expected to lead in Indian society.

While excellent at subtly creating atmosphere, the film has little forward narrative movement and the second half drags through more shots of Avdhut moodily walking around, smoking and staring out of train windows. He also spends a lot of time by himself in nature in sections with names like “Roots” and “Tree." Mahajan is well-cast in the leading role for this kind of doubtful wandering, but can’t hold the film together all by himself. In general, the cast is sensitively chosen and delicately used, with Marathi star Girish Kulkarni making a cameo.

The cinematography by Indikar and Swapnil Shete stands out strongly, frequently taking the place of dialogue and giving the film its lyrical credentials: Avdhut’s face against a waterfall, his figure dwarfed by a lonely road through the hills, mists rising on a vaporous lake like a dream or delirium. The use of color/no color is carefully controlled, with the camera putting a pink hot spot in a dull village scene or adding and subtracting color as it racks focus. Mandar Kamlapurkar’s exceptional sound design creates an emotionally rich soundtrack able to contribute an almost mystical dimension, without wandering off into religious territory.

Production companies: Chitrakathi Nirmiti, Bombay Berlin Film Production
Cast: Abhay Mahajan, Prashant Gite, Aarya Rothe, Girish Kulkarni, Shirkant Yadav, Nandini Pakhre, Makrand Saptarshi, Adwaita Jadhav, Somnath Limbarkar, Varsha Malwadkar, Gajanan Pranjpe
Director: Akshay Indikar
Screenwriters: Akshay Indikar, Kshama Padalkar
Producers: Arvind Pakhle, Katharina Suckale, Arfi Lamba
Executive producer: Tejashri Kamble
Directors of photography: Swapnil Shete, Akshay Indikar
Production and costume designer: Tejashri Kamble
Editor: Akshay Indikar
Sound designer: Mardar Kamlapurkar
Casting directors: Tejashri Kamble, Akshay Indikar
Venue: Shanghai International Film Festival (Asian New Talent Award)

91 minutes