The most ludicrous part of Tripling — which is three seasons in and follows three siblings, Chandan (Sumeet Vyas), Chanchal (Maanvi Gagroo), and Chitvan (Amol Parashar) — is that they do not have a family Whatsapp group. This is an essential piece of information because the family — one mother (Shernaz Patel), one father (Kumud Mishra), and the three musketeers — do not seem to know anything about each other. The gaps between the seasons are gaps of information for the characters. When they meet each other again, one season later, they know and do not know just as much as we know and do not know. Each season gives the siblings a reason to bunch into a car and thrust collectively into new territories for new reasons. This season, they march to Manali, to the house they grew up in, because their parents have decided to part ways amicably and sell the house. The kids — all grown; married, kinda-married, divorced — are having none of it.
Is this a dysfunctional family? Depends on whom you ask. It is this distance between them that makes the coming together so much more free of the bonds (or shackles) of being one family. There is a freedom they tend to give each other. Perhaps, too much freedom, and it is this too-much-ness that could be construed, in the Indian context, its own kind of dysfunction. Do you not love your family enough to tie them down, connect them at your hips, keeping them entirely accessible to you?
In that sense Tripling is a marvelous piece of cultural criticism that argues against the tendency of the Indian family to mistake freedom for dysfunction or lacking love. You know that silly, stupid little platitude whacked around, that if you love something, you must learn to set it free? This show questions its validity, makes fun of it, only to come around and validate it. To have a couple, married for over 30 years, each luxuriating in the autumn of their lives, deciding to kindly part ways, keeping each other’s best interests at heart, is its own kind of love. That the collective arc of this season is for the siblings to ‘get it’ is a thrust in the direction of the Modern Family, even if the show is so self-aware of its cultural criticism, it sometimes produces a grating righteousness.
To simultaneously make fun of something while doing that very thing is a Tripling narrative trope. In season 1, while the three of them are stranded, one picks up a log of wood, and the other screams, “Abhi iss stress mein, moonlight ke neeche bonfire lagake melancholic music sunenge kya? (With all this stress, are we supposed to listen to melancholy music in the moonlight, next to a bonfire?)” Sharp cut to exactly that, not to yank laughter, but infuse vibes. The show, at its best, takes irony and gives it one tight hug.
In Season 2, we travelled from Lucknow, through Kolkata, to Sikkim. Bhutan and Pondicherry are thrown in as seeds in this season — to perhaps be shown in season 4. This season, written by Sumeet Vyas and Abbas Dalal, and directed by Neeraj Udhwani, sees the family trek, camp, and walk around the hills of Manali where wet looms of clouds can slip into your house through open windows. That travelling, being away from the maddening coos of the city, is the only possible space for unravelling, is Tripling marrying the insincere pretentiousness of wanderlust to the sincere yearning of a tight, familiar family huddle.
It is always hard to address a The Viral Fever (TVF) show as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Not just because this is a reductive gesture, but because these are stories that are made beyond the binary. They are always technically proficient, morally forthright, emotionally pitted, and narratively neat with their specific, bite-sized episodes. There is something too confected about their worlds, you can see through the car rental advertisements and screenplay tricks. It is often hard to see individual characters as people — they are invariably stand-ins for some ideal, some ‘type’ — even as the cumulative effect of the show leaves you charmed. To crowd the show with so many ‘types’, these are masterclasses of multi-protagonist storytelling. If you ask three people, whom they think the protagonist of Tripling is, they would probably pick three different characters, depending on whom they related to most.
The impulse with TVF, then, is the kind of pleasure of seeing yourself reflected in a mess — not too messy, just enough to dishevel the day, not destroy it — as one of these ‘types’. A friend dismissed Tripling because she could not ‘relate’ to it. Another loved the show for the opposite reason, that he saw himself as one of the siblings. These are, then, shows that short circuit the desire for good storytelling, replacing it with the kind that feels like a companion. For good stories don’t always make for good companions.