Titli Movie Review

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titliposterThe hammer is a favourite weapon of aggression among the characters who form the immensely unlikeable family in Titli.

They use the hammer to smash faces and in one sequence to even smash the hand of a loved one.

But it’s the hammering of the individual’s self-esteem that Titli hits you the hardest with. Titli, played by newcomer Shashank Arora, the youngest of three brother in a low-life Delhi family of car-jacking criminals, takes his newly-wedded wife to her lover, watches them disappear in the bedroom and sits quietly waiting for the couple to finish its business.

It’s a moment where the silence of anguished helplessness pierces the irony of the plot.

This is not your martyr husband Ajay Devgn from Sanjay Leeela Bhansali Hum…Dil De Chuke Sanam leading his reluctant bride back to her beloved. This is a world stripped of sublimity and grace, of harsh cold blooded calculations where emotions are invested only on the assurance of financial benefits.

Trapped in this world of filthy crime is Titli(Shashank Arora, a natural find) who is desperate to escape his family’s filthy life, even if it means cutting a deal with his wife to let her sleep with her lover.

Titli is one of those crime-heist thrillers where the characters never appear cool in their lawless behaviour. Not for a moment does the casual almost preponderant violence appear gratuitous, let alone appealing.

The violence of Titli made my stomach churn.It’s in the way the grimy male characters clear their throats every morning or the way they slap and sleep with their women… It was in the squalidly of the environment and in the hearts of the characters that the plot finds its centrality.

The script written jointly by director Kanu Behl and Sharat Katriya (the director of Dum Laga Ke Haisha, that other far lighter film about heavyweight problems ) is a sliver of shocking images of the cruel misdeeds of a ‘normal’ low middle class Delhi family for whom crime is a way of life. Their actions may shock us. For them it’s just another day of hard work.

Beyond all its outstanding merits(including a near-absence of background music which imbues a docu-grittiness to the brutal goings-on) is the film’s absolute denial of a moral code for its principal characters. This is The Godfather without the Sicilian bravura.

In this family of criminals, the conscience is an unwanted intruder. Yet it does strike at the end. Our ‘hero’ Titli finds a shuddering redemption at the end. But I remained unconvinced. You can take the Titlis of the metropolis out of crime,but can you really take the crime out of such characters?

Titli left me too stunned to move. Numbed with shock and disbelief, Titli mirrors the underbelly reality of Delhi with a blunt brutality that leaves you shocked, spellbound. This is the story of a criminal family in a crowded locality of Delhi where ambitions are smothered in the stench of decaying dreams.

….Sorry, I am getting lyrical over a film that scoffs at all lyricism . The language is so violent that I often found myself turning away, not in disgust, but terror, and fear of a life that we don’t talk about. Not in our everyday conversations. Not even in our movies.

Dare I say Titli is cinema at its rawest? Other than Ranveer Shorey who is absolutely first rate as the eldest of the three crime-time siblings, there are no known faces in the cast.

And that’s a masterstroke, I don’t think the film would have worked so effectively if Bollywood’s recognizable faces had walked into Kanu Behl’s tightly-wound low-income lower-morality underbelly of Delhi where everything is about survival,, love loyalty family values and conscience….who gives a damn as long as the next instalment for real estate in the mall is served up on time.

Titli takes us into a dark desperate squalid world. For two hours I felt smothered, suppressed .. Now when the film is over I can’t get Shashank Arora’s look of a haunted animal out of my mind. This is the kind of film that speaks a direct and devastating language. It is a film that takes away a part of you and leaves you with something vital in return.

It would be insulting to congratulate the …errr …actors. Because they are not.They are people who have experienced life at its most basic, have known hunger shame and deprivation and desperation, who feel real emotions and have probably lived some of the murky situations that the plot forces them to explore.

A word about the absolutely technique-less technique applied to the film. No fancy framing of the shots, none of characters caught in the ‘right’ light….It all unfolds as though Siddharth Dhawan’s camera doesn’t exist and Namrata Rao’s editing was done so quietly the characters didn’t even know portions of their lives had gone missing.

Interestingly the soundtrack includes a lot of bhajans playing in the background to provide a savagely ironic subtext to the abysmally immoral lives led by the characters.

An absolutely unforgettable film.

Our Rating

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