Direction: Kanu Behl
Cast: Ranvir Shorey, Shashank Arora
Director Kanu Behl’s debut is that rare Hindi film that is powerful, brutal and fully committed to its characters. It is easily one of the best films of the year.
The plot follows a young boy named Titli (Arora) who lives in a dingy chawl in Delhi, in a violently patriarchal family of older brothers Vikram and Baawla (Ranvir Shorey, Amit Sial) and a grandfather (Lalit Behl).
Money is always scarce, tempers are always high, and the unpleasant is a part of life. Every day as Titli sits down to breakfast, for instance, there is someone retching nearby as they do their morning ablutions.
As he grows up, Titli becomes the runt in a gang that carries out car robberies. To fix his ‘rebellious’ ways, his family then marries him, against his wishes, to a girl (Shivani Raghuvanshi) with issues of her own.
As he sets about trying to break the cycle of fear and patriarchy, he and his wife drift apart.
There are subtle parallels with Dum Laga Ke Haisha, which shares the same co-writers in Behl and Sharat Kataria. And yet Titli is unique.
It never shies away from showing just how ugly human beings can be when they are desperate. It throws a harsh light on how antiquated, misogynistic and out of touch with the real world many Indian families are. It then explores with beautiful delicacy the dependencies this generates. It makes you contemplate what a happy ending should look like for two people forced together.
The performances are incredible all around. Shorey particularly is a standout as a terrifying loose canon prone to violence. Newcomer Arora has a nervous energy that beautifully underlines his vulnerability. His performance signals the arrival of a bright young star, and establishes Behl as a filmmaker to watch.
Some scenes are so violent, they will make you squirm. But don’t let that put you off. Titli is simply unmissable. Watch it at the earliest.