"Titli", by Kanu Behl, which tackles the family violence and
poor treatment of women that blight Indian society, is one of 19
films competing in the 'Un Certain Regard' category for emerging
directors, with prizes to be handed out on Friday.
Behl's first feature as director follows the quiet and withdrawn
Titli - 'butterfly' in Hindi - who is desperate to break from
his all-male family of car-jackers living in a suburban slum but
finds every exit blocked and every dream destroyed.
"It is for me a film that takes on the Holy Grail of Indian
cinema, which is the family, and says 'Hey look! There's all
this happening and why aren't we talking about it?'" Behl, who
had previously worked on documentaries, told Reuters TV.
To try to live a better life and earn extra money, Titli's
brothers and father arrange a marriage to Neelu (Shivani
Raghuvanshi), an intelligent and attractive girl who also finds
her dreams shattered and looks set to spend her life surrounded
by violent men.
The pair contrive to escape their similar situations, away from
the ears and eyes of violent brothers.
The film, which maintains a documentary feel, strives to make
the viewer "feel the violence and get a sense of why these
people are behaving in the way they are," Behl added.
Actor Shashank Arora, who plays Titli, admitted that the gritty
subject matter, rarely seen in Indian cinema, made him feel
"very depressed" during the shoot, in which he appears in every
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"There is so much violence back home in India and there is a lot of
harassment against women and that's just the beginning of it and I
think we're just skimming the surface with this film," he said.
"I think we're just beginning to find ourselves and beginning to
find the stories that are really Indian and not Bollywood cinema and
we're really trying to explore and look within ourselves and find
where does this come from, where does this violence stem from."
Eschewing the glamour, frivolity and fairy-tale endings of Bollywood
cinema, the backdrop of "Titli" is the teeming slums outside Delhi
where millions struggle to survive day to day.
"There are these two separate worlds. There is a world of the
'haves' that are going to the malls in India who are consuming more
and more ... and then there is in that world the 'have nots' who are
there to serve these other people," Behl said.
"There are almost like satellite cities all around the big city now
where these people go back to and it's about going back to that and
living those 12 hours which are so different from the other 12 hours
you see every day."
(Writing by Alexandria Sage; Editing by John Stonestreet)
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