Titli

Titli Poster

Titli
Release date: October 30, 2015
Directed by: Kanu Behl
Cast: Shashank Arora, Ranvir Shorey, Amit Sial, Shivani Raghuvanshi, Sumit Gulati, Lalit Behl

Titli’ as we know, in Hindi, is the whimsical sounding word which translates to ‘butterfly’. The creature itself is often addressed with a prefixed adjective, ‘chanchal’ (fickle in English), in Hindi folklore and in a bazillion poems and lyrics over the years. In Kanu Behl’s debut feature, the title character is hardly ever chanchal. Titli (Shashank Arora) is mercurial in only a few situations. Some of these change the course of his life, and some affect others as well.

Titli is unflinching and uncompromising. The youngest son in a lower middle class family, down by the nullah on the other side of the Yamuna in Delhi; he admits that his name was originally meant for a daughter that his mother always wanted. The mother is dead, and there’s not a single archetypal photograph of hers with a garland on it in the house. The name lives on. Much like the name, Titli’s dream of owning a parking lot in an under construction mall lives on, no matter what hurdles lie in front of him.

It’s a unique aspiration in itself, even unclear at the very start. You’re then introduced to his family, a crew of hustlers and bustlers who moonlight as carjackers. They have respectable day jobs too, but violence and crime are long-accepted entities in their lives. Initially, there’s a scene where Vikram (Ranvir Shorey) has a stupid argument with a delivery guy, which ends in a bloody brawl laced with expletives. Titli tries to meddle and ends up with a bleeding nose. It’s hilarious to watch because you think of this instance as an exceptional burst of anger and deem it as outrageous.

The humorous appeal ends when you’re exposed to the violence in much greater amounts. They are bad and they are gruesome. Titli is perhaps the least apathetic of the three. His family frowns at his desire of getting out of the “narak” (hell) that his surroundings are. They decide that getting him married will get his mind out of having dreams and end up entrapped in matrimonial affairs. They also consider the aspect of inducting his wife Neelu (Shivani Raghuvanshi) in the gang.

The new bride has her own aspirations to fulfill, if not as convoluted, they can surely be labelled as “immoral” by the societal standards. Titli is a smart customer who tries to figure out a way to turn this abyss into a goldmine as well.

Sharat Katariya and Kanu Behl try to turn their story on to the path of resurrection. At a taut running length of 124 minutes, the film is perfectly compelling. You could replace the city with your own and still see all of it making sense. Where economic growth and development of real estate takes place at the expense of slums and farms, you can see the poor reeling and seething at the injustice meted out to them in their own eyes.

In their debut outings, Shashank Arora and Shivani Raghuvanshi perform extremely well. Arora, with his wiry frame and steely eyes that almost never blink, casts a grim fervour over the proceedings. He embodies his character’s small-but-tough persona. And yet, he’s relatively the least violent, even when he proposes breaking another character’s hand. It’s in this scene, where the reason for all brutalities becomes self-evident. It’s just a way of life, when things can’t be controlled, you slap/punch/beat the crap out of the person you can’t deal with.

Ranvir Shorey puts up a display of a lifetime. In a recent interview, he claimed to be a “struggler” for his entire career. He acts as if this is his first film, or potentially even his last film. He gives it all. Amit Sial’s Pradeep has the most secretive private life as compared to his brothers, like how Vikram is facing a divorce, their father is facing acidic burps and a lungs-propelling cough. Sial shows why he deserves more work in the industry.

Titli, on the lines of Khosla Ka Ghosla, NH10, and even Aurangzeb, depicts what it’s like to exist when the growth of an ecosystem threatens to leave behind its inhabitants; it forces them to, as the cliché goes, adapt or perish.

My rating: **** (4 out of 5)

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