In a film that seeks to exorcise the past, Titli, the eponymous hero of Kanu Behl's debut work, tries to escape the family "business" of armed robbery. The 30-year-old director drew inspiration from his own family background to make his first feature film, which is in the running for the Caméra d’or. It's a way of making a new start - titli, in Hindi, means "butterfly".
Still from the film © RR
Tell us how your film came about.
Titli is a very personal film. I'd written a screenplay before, but hadn't found anyone willing to produce it. I realised that it lacked honesty. I wanted to make a film that people wanted to see.
This was what made me decide that, whatever I wrote in the future, it would be directly inspired by my own experience. Bit by bit, Titli turned into a condensed portrayal of my life up until the age of thirty, and my complicated relationship with my father. I had made a bet with myself to be done with it, once and for all. Then it struck me that, unconsciously, I was becoming more and more like him. Physically, I had managed to make the break, but the tyrant I was running from was deeply rooted inside me.
This is what became the heart of the film. Titli is about family ghosts that linger, about the way representations of the past are handed down from one person to the next, without anyone being aware of what's happening.
Any special memory or anecdote from the shooting?
After working together for a short time, Shashank (who plays Titli) and I had the impression that we weren't getting to grips with the character. Shashank had never been beaten up and came from a quiet, middle-class area of Dehli. For a few days, we'd worked in some extreme conditions, to get him on the right track. He'd been hit, and he'd had a glimpse of the oppression one can experience living in such a situation. He'd had no idea what it was like to live in such close proximity with so many people. We asked him to go and spend some time in a slum in Mumbai, where he'd have to go and shit outside in full view of everyone. He was there for a week, and when he came back he was completely devastated. He didn't really know what to say, except that he was angry and wanted to hit someone for putting him through it. This was the sense of violence that I wanted to bring to the film. It was a crucial exercise for him, as for me, to find out who it was Titli had to be in the film.
Can you tell us about your next project?
My next film will be called Agra. It's about a young man who falls in love with a woman who exists only in his imagination. He's diagnosed as mad and ends up in a psychiatric hospital in the town of Agra.
What type of cinema has influenced you?
My first experiences of the cinema were Bollywood films and the great Hollywood classics. I discovered film properly much later on, at school. I admire Stanley Kubrick for the variety of genres that he embraced, in a very pure way, Emir Kusturica, for his madness and his characters, Abbas Kiarostami for his organic screenplays, Audiard, Iñárittu, Steve Mc Queen…
Tuesday 20th May / Debussy Theatre / 11.00 a.m.
Wednesday 21st May / Bazin Theatre / 2.00 p.m.
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