Tuesday, November 03, 2015


Bleak House

His mother named him Titli, because after two songs, she wanted a daughter.  But the eponymous protagonist of Kanu Behl’s film  has none of the joy or colour his name suggests. He (Shashank Arora) is a young man who looks prematurely aged, with deep lines of disgruntlement etched on his face, and permanently disappointed eyes.

He lives in an ugly Delhi tenement with his father (Lalit Behl), and brothers Vikram (Ranvir Shorey) and Bawla (Amit Sial). The maleness of the household is underlined with a bit too much hawking and spitting; a desire for upward mobility suggested with all that teeth-brushing and fuss over a dining table. The brothers are carjackers, using violence with chilling casualness—in one scene, they drive around with blood on their faces—but still inexplicably impoverished and desperate.

Titli (with that name, he must have been brutally ragged in school), wants to get out of that hell hole, but is trapped further when his brothers force him to get married to Neelu (Shivani Raghuvanshi).  The bride is in love with a married man, who has been stringing her along. Women have no place in that bleak male world—the brothers just want a smart girl as an accomplice.  It is suggested that the deceased mother suffered abuse at the hands of her husband; Vikram’s wife has left him because of domestic abuse, and is demanding a high alimony that he cannot afford.

Sympathy is meant to be diverted to Titli, who does not want to be like his brothers, but his idea of escape also involves lies, deceit and violence.  In another terrifying scene, he breaks the wrist of his wife, so that she can’t sign the papers needed to withdraw her money.

There are households like this, there are violent and macho men like Vikram (Bawla’s homosexuality is hinted at) and there is brutality and torment of one kind of the other to be faced by the poor on a daily basis—in the world Kanu Behl portrays, there is no happiness in poverty or nobility in suffering.  He makes the viewer see how the other half lives, but at the end of it, there is no takeway, and certainly no entertainment.

The film is a sincere debut, with some fine performances—Ranvir Shorey is outstanding; one can appreciate the film, but would think twice before recommending it to friends.


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