Starring: Shashank Arora, Ranvir Shorey, Shivani Raghuvanshi, Amit Sial
Director: Kanu Behl
Cinematographer: Siddharth Diwan
Without wasting any runtime, Kanu Behl’s Titli establishes that this is going to be a tough and dusty ride. Right from the first shot the film uses the distopic Delhi skyline with skeletal structures of high rises (dreams under construction) as a noir element. And in such a setting stands our protagonist bargaining for a happy future in exchange for 3 lac rupees.
From then on the film establishes exactly why Titli must get away. Sidhharth Diwan’s hand held camera follows actor Shashank Arora into a mesh of bumpy by lanes lined with over-used scooters and water cans to a family that doesn’t deserve a steady camera. A birthday party, an un-cut pineapple cake, furniture delivery boys, a brother who’s one hour late, a wife who wants to leave with the birthday girl and the wrong shade of red. All in a single scene redefining chaos.
If that wasn’t enough, then Dibakar Bannerjee’s production fills each and every frame with a clutter of meaningless dust coated junk. Like the plastic flowers and the old Neha Dhupia cut out stuck to a pink wall with brown tape. Layers of memory competing for space with each other.
It’s as if the makers of this film don’t want to allow a single second of respite to the audience or even the characters for that matter. Titli must aid his brothers in looting cars and tearing away gold from women’s ears in the stealth of the night to keep the income coming in to pay for the constantly incurring debts. His brothers Vikram (Ranvir Shorey) and Bawla (Amit Sial) are not mere caricatures of tyrannical masculine figures Titli must break free from but are desperate clueless buggers trying to keep a rapidly disintegrating family together and getting kicked around in a perpetually shape-shifting system that uses them as hands for petty crimes.
Kanu Behl’s Titli sums up the chaos of development. Filling his canvas with ugly frames and garish sounds he conveys a sense of disconnect which is fest evolving in Delhi. But what’s truly smart about Titli is how the external ugliness seeps into the personal.
One of the most frequently repeated actions in the film is that of the characters brushing their teeth. This act is accompanied by guttural coughs, spits, wheezes almost making the audience wish there was an easier way to clean ones guts.
But this daily routine doesn’t clear out the vulgarity of the deals each one is trying to strike with the other in order to reach somewhere better. Vikram’s abused wife wants a divorce and 5 lac rupees leaving Vikram in both tears and rage; Titli takes his wife Neelu (Shivani Raghuvanshi) to meet her lover Prince in exchange of money; and Prince (Prashant Singh) advices Titli on how to fool Neelu instead of exposing him.
Each and every scene of this film communicates the tragedy of the characters and builds it up to a crescendo where Titli just can’t take it anymore. Having paid up for his dreams he realizes his gut really is belching itself out.
In a twisted defiled setting that is constantly being dug and reshaped with and for money, the characters of Titli, despite all their demons, make you root for them. And that is precisely what makes this one of the most memorable films of Bollywood in a long time.