Yash Raj Films, till some time back, was known for films that boasted of rich production values, which were shot in foreign locations and featured A-listers. Of late, apart from producing the biggies, the production house is also backing up films that might not have big stars or mounted on a big scale, but have strong content. ‘Shuddh Desi Romance’, ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’ and to a certain extent ‘Detective Byomkesh Bakshy’ are such films. Even though these films were starkly different from the kind produced by the banner, they were fairly commercial. The same cannot be said about Kanu Behl’s ‘Titli’ which veers more towards arthouse cinema. ‘Titli’ premiered at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival last year and made rounds of several other film festivals before hitting home turf.
Titli (Shashank Arora) lives in a slum in Delhi with his two elder brothers Vikram (Ranvir Shorey) and Bawla (Amit Sial), and his father (Lalit Behl). While Vikram and Bawla go about doing their legitimate jobs in the morning, they hijack cars at night. Titli is forced to assist them and be a part of their criminal activities. Unhappy with being a part of a dysfunctional family, Titli saves money given to him by his brothers for his education and seeks to buy a parking lot in a suburban mall. He believes it would help him break free of the world he is stuck in. An incident leads towards the brothers discovering his plan. Titli gets bashed up and is made to meet Neelu (Shivani Raghuvanshi), a girl the brothers wish for him to get married to.
The world that the film is set in and the characters it depicts are far removed from the privileged lives a regular, middle-class person avails of. Even if this world seems alien to you at first, you get used to it and start understanding the characters as the film progresses. The treatment is as real as it gets and by the time the film gets over, you get an insight into a world that you probably have not explored before. The film, with a runtime of 124 minutes, has a brisk pace to it. The drama unfolds quickly which makes it a consistently engaging affair. The characters and the milieu are established quickly and the plot unravels smoothly while keeping the intensity intact. There are some sequences in the post-interval portion that could have been handled a little better. The pre-climax sequence could have been more elaborate. Also, a prolonged sequence featuring Titli puking as the camera zooms towards his face comes across as pretentious.
Kanu Behl, who had co-written ‘Love Sex Aur Dhokha’, has an eye for detail. The director does not take any shortcuts and the pains he must have taken, to write the characters that come across as real, portray their lives, and set the film in a milieu that the audience can identify with. The screenplay (Sharat Katariya and Kanu Behl) is well researched and engaging. The cinematography (Siddharth Diwan) suits the mood of the film. The grainy frames and a few shots which seem out of focus seem to work well for the raw and dark tone of the film. The sound design (Pritam Das) is top-notch. The credit for the brisk pace of the film must go to the editing (Namrata Rao).
Shashank Arora fits the part and does everything required to bring the character of ‘Titli’ alive on screen. Shivani Raghuvanshi, who bears a faint resemblance to Anushka Sharma (another YRF find), lends her character just the right amount of vulnerability. Ranvir Shorey delivers the best performance in the film and is absolutely convincing on his part. Amil Sial brings in a certain kind of ambiguity to his character which is interesting. Lalit Behl is wonderful as the submissive father. Sumit Gulati leaves a mark in a brief role.
‘Titli’ maintains the dark and grim theme throughout its duration and is filled with violence which complements the narrative. The film introduces you to a world which you might not be familiar with but helps you walk through it. By the time the end credits roll, you find yourself immersed in a world that disturbs you and implores you to think about it. A dark and disturbing film but extremely relevant, that should not be missed.