By Heli Shukla:
Cannes season is upon us. Cinema lovers from all over the world are flocking to the French Riviera to witness some of the world’s best cinema. India isn’t far behind in the cavalcade. Kanu Behl’s ‘Titli’ has been chosen for screening at the 67th edition of the Cannes Film Festival. Produced by Dibakar Bannerjee and YRF, the movie revolves around the tumultuous relationship between two brothers. Titli also attempts to cast light on Indian society, in more ways than one.
The title role is being essayed by newcomer Shashank Arora, who plays Titli, a Delhi youngster being forced into the family business of crime. Ranvir Shorey essays the role of Titli’s elder brother Vikram, a violent small time goon who has a chaotic relationship with his youngest brother.
Titli appears to be a mix of a coming of age film and a social commentary. Coming of age because the trailer points towards Titli’s struggle to break out of his oppressive family’s dominance over his life and social commentary because it also talks about the many ways that violence can damage a family.
Violence and family are not alien to the Indian society. Indian homes have semblances of domestic violence in one way or another. Filmmakers have used the same to draw a larger picture on the big screen several other times in the past. Titli hopes to do the same.
The movie draws parallels with the Indian society at present. More so, it talks about the underbelly of the Indian society and how it still adheres to patriarchal notions. The trailer features scenes in which Titili is being beat up by his brother, an everyday sight in most Indian homes. Another scene where Titli forcefully tries to have sex with his wife, who is clearly reluctant, points to the commonness of marital rape. Such instances of grave crimes are shown in the everyday manner that they take place in and go unnoticed.
The makers have also put in a strong female character, that of Titli’s wife Neelu, played by Shivani Raghuvanshi. Neelu is shown as a girl coming from a lower middle class family who is being forced into matrimony with someone her parents find eligible. However, she refuses to succumb to her circumstances and instead runs away to live with her ‘love’, a guy named ‘Prince’. Neelu’s ferocity is shown several times in the 2 minute trailer, when she refuses to have sex with her husband and later when Titli confronts her after she runs away. Neelu agrees to be a part of Titli’s scheme only when he promises three lakh rupees in return for her help. Thus, Neelu isn’t reduced to a coy small town girl but instead is shown as someone who can stand up for herself.
Titli surely makes for some engaging cinema. The trailer itself has given us so much to look forward to. A largely unknown cast is an added plus point. The story and treatment also seem vastly different than what we are used to seeing. Considering its social relevance, Titli is surely set to garner equal praise from Indian audiences. Its gritty, indie style of filmmaking seems like a breath of fresh air from the otherwise formulaic Bollywood that we are subjected to. The makers are yet to zero down on its release in India, but seeing the acclaim Titli is gathering at Cannes it might just head home after several other rounds of international praise.