Mumbai-based filmmaker Kanu Behl is making his feature debut with Titli, about the youngest member of a car-jacking brotherhood attempting to escape his oppressive family.
Behl previously directed documentaries and worked as a writer and assistant director on films with Dibakar Banerjee, who co-produced Titli with Yash Raj Films (YRF). Ranvir Shorey and Amit Sial head the cast of the film which premiered yesterday in Un Certain Regard.
What inspired you to make the film?
It’s quite a personal film. I’ve been working with Dibakar since 2007 and was working on another script, but when I pitched it to him, he said this isn’t coming from inside you. So I took time to reassess and realised one of the major things that was disturbing me was this early difficult phase in my relationship with my father and that became a point to get into the film.
I started out with my co-writer Sharat Katariya writing a film about a younger brother feeling oppressed by an older brother, but it became a film about circularity – the older brother is violent and oppressive because the father may have been like that. And why is the father the way he is? That’s when we discovered the ghost of the dead grandfather.
How did the shoot go?
It was a really tough film to shoot – we shot in Delhi in the peak of summer in 46 degrees. Probably the biggest problem was that I’d wanted to go a bit more with long takes on the film, but quickly realised I was working with a lot of first-time actors and that wasn’t going to work. We had to redesign stuff because they were losing the emotion and character. It worked to the advantage of the film because it helped give the actors the freedom they needed – me and Siddharth [Diwan, DoP] just danced around them to catch the right moment.
Titli is a departure for Yash Raj Films which produces mainstream films. How much did they get involved in the production?
We knew that Yash Raj wanted to do films that take them out of their comfort zone, but I think Dibakar coming on board helped them feel much more comfortable that someone else shared that sensibility. It’s been really smooth sailing in the sense that I’ve been lucky enough to get the freedom to go out and make exactly the film I wanted to make very fearlessly. As soon as Yash Raj decide to do something they do really back you.
What are you doing next?
I’m toying with a few ideas, but I’m excited about a smallish film called Agra, about a guy who is in love with woman who doesn’t exist. He’s put into a mental asylum in Agra and its about his escape and his journey to prove she exists.