Monday, January 11, 2016

Titli (2015)

Director: Kanu Behl
Writers:  Kanu Behl, Sharat Katariya
Cast:       Shashank Arora, Shivani Raghuvanshi, Ranvir Shorey
Language: Hindi

In the badlands of Delhi's dystopic underbelly, Titli, the youngest member of a violent car-jacking brotherhood, plots a desperate bid to escape the 'family' business. 

It was great year for Indian cinema last year with three of its films- Masaan, Court and Titli doing very well in the international film festival circuit. Due to the success of Masaan at the Cannes, it was forgotten that 'Titli' also managed to get a screening there in the 'Un Certain Regard' section. Both of these films have got a similar theme with their central characters trying to break free from the situation and the society that they were born into. In Masaan, it was the extreme conservatism of small town India while Titli is set in the modern urban hell-hole that is Delhi. The title translates as butterfly in English and like a butterfly, the titular character wants to transform himself from the form he was born into in terms of his settings and break free. 

I had no idea as to what the film was about and going by the poster, with the central couple in a scooter, I was expecting it to be an intense story of forbidden romance. It was anything but and what I got was a black comedy with a great central performance from Shashank Arora who is making his debut in this film. Performances from all concerned are excellent to be fair. It took me a bit of time to figure out what the family business was about and we realize it along with the new member of their family, Titli's wife that was arranged for him by his family. The film could have gone multiple ways from there, similar to 'Badlands' and 'The Edukators' or like a road-revenge film. In the end, it kind of reaches a predictable conclusion but the way it gets there is good enough for it to work. The claustrophobic way that it was filmed reminded me of Latin American films like 'Amores Perros' and 'City of God'. The Indian cities are inching towards the state of Latin American cities with extreme poverty and affluence living in close proximity and similar kind of violence fueling them. 

To sum up,  it is a great watch with great performances from all concerned. It was a directorial debut for Kanu Behl, who had previously assisted Dibakar Banerjee. The latter also served as a producer for this film and Anurag Kashyap was involved in promoting it. It is good to see their progeny doing as well and arguably even better than them. As for the films that I mentioned earlier, I would rank them as 1. Court, 2. Titli and 3. Masaan. All of them were great and it is just amazing to see us churning out films that can be classed along with the best from the rest of the world.

Rating: 4.5/5