Titli : A butterfly with grisly colours
Most of us watch movies to get entertained. Sometimes, we also support realistic cinema with commercial treatments. But only few of us watch movies to appreciate different cinema. There always have been some film makers who want to tell stories which are different and unique. Only a small class of audience support such endeavours. But with advent of multiplexes, satellite television and digital mediums of film distribution, film makers and studios are going ahead and taking the risk of producing and releasing such movies. Yash Raj Films presenting Dibakar Banerjee produced Kenu Behl’s “Titli” is testimony this fact.
Titli is everything which Bollywood cinema is not. It is an honest attempt to tell a story which the film maker wants to tell. Backing by a producer like Dibakar Banerjee made sure that Kenu Behl gets the necessary space and freedom to tell his story the way he tell. It is an undiluted and in your face tale of a dysfunctional criminal family that is bound together primarily by the basic need for survival.
Titli (Shashank Arora) is a youngest boy from this family primarily headed by elder brother Vikram (Ranvir Shorey), living with the middle brother Pradeep (Amit Sial) and father Daddy (Lalit Behl). Car-jacking is their family business and they don’t mind a little violence while doing so. After all, ganda hai par dhandha hai ye. But Titli is aspiring for a normal life. His dream is to get a parking lot contract in a mall. He is ready to beg, borrow or steal for it, even from his own family. He lies to them that he needs money to buy
In one of the car-jacking operations, Titli tries to escape away but instead gets exposed in front of his family. As a result, the family decides to get him married so that he forgets the plan to escape and family gets another helping hand in the car-jacking operations. Contrary to these expectations, Titli finds an unlikely partner in his wife Shivani Raghuvanshi who is also adamant in following her own dream. They both become partner in crime and try to escape from their grim reality. How do they do that? Do they succeed? Answers to these questions form the further story.
Written by Sharat Katariya and Kanu Behl, Titli is a fresh but haunting perspective on the Indian Family from a strata of a society we know very less about. No doubt it is a new world for most the audience, the treatment is eerily realistic and the twists are shockingly disturbing. The screenplay is taught and seamless. Some good work there at the writing department.
With such good content at hand, Director Kanu Behl narrates this unusual story with uncompromising conviction. He keeps the narrative very realistic and that can be problem with regular cinema goers. Most of the time, we are hooked to the screen but sometimes when it moves at the life’s pace, we do feel a disconnection. Also, the reasoning given for some actions like why the family needs a female in their operations, why and when Vikram’s wife leaves him (while in fact the film starts with a scene where he fights with the packers and movers guys for staring at his wife), etc are weak. Also, Vikram and Pradeep gets sidelined as the story progresses and get forgotten eventually as Titli’s story takes the main stage. Also there no exact explanation of why Titli returns to Neelu except the assumption that he finally finds his love in her. There the Director moves ahead ignoring getting into details or say spoon feeding.
Also this is a very dry and eerie narrative sans humour or entertainment. The film is hard hitting with in your face violence. Soft hearted people would like to run away from the claustrophobic experience same like Titli and that can be the success of the Director. However, it can be problem with regular audience which is not ready for such cinema.
Apart from that, due credit must be given to Kanu for sticking to his conviction and tell the story exactly the way he wants to tell. Similarly, same credit goes to Producer Dibakar Banerjee for backing it and the promoters YRF for giving it a mainstream release.
Kanu easily creates a world or irony where the family speaks about values and bonding but never blinks an eye when it comes to taking horrific and violent steps for what they feel as part of business or the right way to achieve what they set to do. It includes hitting the car owners with hammer or breaking the hand of own wife. Still he succeeds in making the audience sympathise and even root for such people when they say “Abhi tai kabhi murder nahi kiya” or do deal with own wife to let her meet and sleep with her lover for money (“fees”). This in itself is a great success of the writing and Direction.
Technically, the film is top notch. Production Design by Parul Sondh and Costume Design by Fabeha is perfect and that does not mean it has a glossy, stylish look but because it succeeds in complimenting the environment of where the story takes place. Cinematography by Siddharth Diwan is excellent. Film Editing by Namrata Rao is good but could have been better. Music by Karan Gour is outstanding.
Performance wise, everyone does justice to their roles and all the four lead actors i.e. Ranveer Shorey, Amit Sial, Shashank Arora and Shivani Raghuvanshi excel in their respective roles. Ranveer is menacing, Amit is balancing, Shashank successfully carry forwards the story on his shoulder and Shivani impresses with her complex role. Lalit Behl is just part of the frame like other props most of the times but succeeds in leaving an impact when he finally gets a full scene in the climax. Everyone else does a fabulous job including Prashant Singh who plays two timing lover of Neelu (Prince) and Sumit Gulati who plays Titli’s friend who tries to get him the parking lot. This makes Casting by Atul Mongia perfect.
So overall, Titli is a brave film which is honest in its story telling but is not for faint hearted and has gory, gruesome violence and stomach churning play of reality which even more hard hitting than the actual violence it shows. It is an unsetting and disturbing experience which very few audience will be able to digest. Though it portrays an unique Indian family, this is strictly not for regular family outing and is rated A for its violent content.
Recommendation : If your idea of Cinema is that of honest storytelling and does not demand humour and lite entertainment, if you can appreciate the cinema for the different kind of experience it creates for you in the theatre however claustrophobic it is, then this movie is a must watch for you. Everyone else who thinks cinema shall only be entertaining, can skip this movie.