I still visit the lanes from my childhood: Avinash Arun on ‘Three of Us’ | Bollywood - Hindustan Times
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I still visit the lanes from my childhood: Avinash Arun on ‘Three of Us’

PTI |
Jan 17, 2024 11:49 AM IST

I still visit the lanes from my childhood: Avinash Arun on ‘Three of Us’

Arun, whose film is winning plaudits for its loving portrayal of childhood and connections, says the story about a woman slowly descending into dementia, her husband and her school sweetheart is deeply personal for him and he lived with it for more than five years.

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"All these years, I had this idea about building a film around a person whose memory is fading. My childhood was very close to me and I still visit those lanes, the village and the town. I keep wondering about the lives my friends are leading because these are important memories of your life," Arun told PTI.

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The cinematographer-director, an FTII graduate, is counted amongst the most interesting voices to have emerged in cinema in recent times.

Childhood is a recurring theme in the filmmaker's work. His streaming show "School of Lies" is set in a boarding school while his 2015 Marathi debut "Killa" is a story told through the eyes of a young boy.

"Three of Us" is centred around Shailaja who returns to her childhood home in Maharashtra’s picturesque Vengurla town. She is accompanied by her husband on the journey that also leads her to her old school, classmates and dance teacher.

Arun, who directed the first season of the massively popular series "Paatal Lok" as well as its upcoming second season, said there is a reason why he keeps returning to this theme.

"There is an emotional high you feel in childhood because your mind and senses are like a sponge. That's why the experience is so intensified. We don't understand it at that time but these moments shape us. Throughout our life, we try to reach out to that level of excitement, experience and feeling. That's why we get so nostalgic about the past because the intensity of memory is directly proportional to the intensity of an experience," he said.

“Three of Us” released in theatres in November before making its way to streaming service Netflix. Arun, who was convinced about the movie he had made and how it was going to be received, went through a period of struggle when it came to its release.

"All major OTT platforms rejected the film. I was quite heartbroken. I knew that it would do well on OTT... It was dubbed as an arthouse film and in my opinion it wasn't because I knew that the audience is evolved and they will appreciate a film like this," he said.

The director said he is not new to such a struggle.

" 'Killa' was also in the same space. I had to wait for the film (release) for a long time. 'Paatal Lok' helped me mount this film. You have to repeat yourself with success, then the probability of your next work happening increases," he said, praising producers Matchbox Shots for trusting his vision with “Three of Us”.

Actor Shefali Shah was the first to board the movie. He had worked with Jaideep Ahlawat, his senior in FTII, in “Paatal Lok” but his name didn't immediately click.

The filmmaker said he approached many actors for the role, some were busy, others thought they had nothing to do in the film. Luckily, Ahlawat, who plays Pradeep, the childhood friend to Shefali's character Shailaja, and Swanand Kirkire, who plays Shailaja's husband Dipankar, loved the script.

"All three actors are brilliant, emotionally charged and sensitive human beings. Jaideep is a friend, I have known him for a long time, so is Swanand. I worked with Shefali for the first time but I have to say, this film happened because of her. I can't imagine anyone else," he said.

Arun believes every film has a journey and characters help one find the right actors to portray them.

"If your intentions are right and you are honest. Things fall into place."

"Killa" and "Three of Us" are slice-of-life, meditative stories, whereas his streaming shows -- "Paatal Lok" and "School of Lies" -- deal with darker themes.

The filmmaker said this demarcation is completely unintentional.

"The formats are different and you can choose different themes. As a maker, I don't want to define myself because I like every kind of cinema and genre... It has to be a good film or show which caters to my sensibilities and gives some kind of experience to me.

"For me, the ability to feel anything is love. Even despair, jealousy, competition or extremely dark emotions. 'Natya shastra' has these 'nav rasas' (nine emotions). When you are watching something, you can find that emotion within you and you connect with that emotion," he said.

While "Killa" captured the "fish out of water" feeling of a child who is lifted from his comfort zone and thrown into an unfamiliar territory, "Three of Us" is about looking back, he said.

"When we reach a certain point in life and we look back, we have these emotions like 'Where am I?', 'What had I thought about my life and how it's turned out?' And when you are also dealing with your health, you think, 'Let me go back to the place and memory that gave me so much joy'. Which is why this character goes to Vengurla."

Konkan region's beauty is not fully tapped in movies and Arun, who spent most of his childhood in these places, said he wants to keep exploring the place as it is similar to "going on a holiday and making a film".

What's with his films and old forts, which form an important backdrop in both "Killa" (Fort) and "Three of Us".

The origin, he said, goes back to school trips that were often spent exploring old forts and temples.

"Small places have such trips. I had those memories and visually also, I felt that they represent the long forgotten past, like the walls with roots. When I saw that, I had this feeling that the past is hidden somewhere inside us and it is in a bad shape... It is so old that it will eventually disintegrate. So I ended up including it in the film."

The filmmaker said he next wants to explore something completely unexpected from him but for now is excited and looking forward to the second part of "Paatal Lok".

"I am very happy with the way it's turned out. I am very excited and can't wait for people to watch it. I don't think there is anything like this," he said about the project that will also mark a return for Ahlawat as Inspector Hathiram.

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