In ‘Titli’, which is slated to make its world premiere in the ‘Un Certain Regard’ category at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival, debutant director Kanu Behl has drawn a lot from his own experiences to tackle issues like family and violence.
Behl, a long-time writing partner of Dibakar Banerjee, managed to find the best of support in the ‘Shanghai’ helmer, who has backed the project through his production house along with Yash Raj Films.
“I started writing the film in 2010 when I was finishing ‘Love Sex Aur Dhokha’. I knew I wanted to write something that came from personal experience and was really honest. There was a lot of anger and a need to scream out about things that I felt strongly,” Behl told PTI.
At the centre of ‘Titli’ is a young boy who wants to escape and oppressive brother and an illegal family business. He plans, plots and cheats to get out of the trap but in that process he realises that he has become exactly the person he is trying to run away from.
‘Titli’ stars Shashank Arora, Ranvir Shorey, Amit Sial, Lalit Behl and Shivani Raghuvanshi. Behl, who shot the film on location in Delhi, says the story delves into this realisation and its aftermath.
“‘Titli’ talks about how you can’t escape your roots. It deals with themes like patriarchy, how men look at women in our country, violence and a desire for freedom. It also talks about the escape that we want to make in our lives and questions whether it a physical thing,” Behl says.
The director, who has co-written the script with Sharat Katariya, says the germ of the story stemmed from his own conflict with his father but denies the story is autobiographical.
“While growing up, I was a rebellious teenager. I had a father-son conflict which I think happens in every family. Some of these feelings are from there when I was trying to make what I thought was a good escape. The film starts from there but it has grown beyond it,” he says.
Talking about his long association with Dibakar, Behl says they share a relationship of “mutual respect and a common love for cinema”.
“We have a shared love for cinema and stories that are rooted deep within our culture and speak of our time and textures that we live in.
“He was very much a part of ‘Titli’. We would have long discussions about where the story was headed and he would warn us if we took a wrong turn as we worked through drafts after drafts. He told me very early on that I should make this film fearlessly. He really stood behind us and so did YRF,” Behl says.
The director says before beginning the film he told himself that he will make ‘Titli’ like it was his last film.
Behl is now happy with the way people have responded to the story in test screenings. “Filmmaking is not a business for me. I am not here for that. I am here to tell stories. This film needed to be told in a certain way. I know that I am not making an abstract art, I have a strong storyline and interesting characters to back me. The film has a universal theme and will resonate and connect with people,” he says.
Behl has been busy finishing the film ahead of its Cannes deadline that he has not really given a thought about its selection at the prestigious festival.
“I am busy taking the film to the finish line. I really did not have the time to thing about the selection but yes any appreciation that the film gets is bound to help,” he says.
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