Cannes: Sexual Repression in India and an ‘Agra’ Without a Taj Mahal

After his debut function “Titli” bowed at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard strand in 2014, Kanu Behl is again on the Croisette with “Agra,” which has its world premiere on the Directors’ Fortnight.

” ‘Agra’ grasps the truth of patriarchy in India by the prism of male sexual distress,” is how the pageant describes the movie. It follows Guru, a younger single name middle worker who nonetheless lives together with his dad and mom. Consumed by frustration, he plunges right into a fever bordering on madness, between pathetic fantasies, relationship apps and hysterical self-harm. The movie additionally explores the position property can play in a younger man’s emancipation.

After the theatrical launch of “Titli” in India and France in 2015, Behl started fascinated by what to do subsequent. “I realized that I had felt a certain sexual repression or an inability to express myself sexually in my adolescent years,” Behl informed Variety. The filmmaker realized that he was not an remoted case and noticed many examples round him. “There is this almost very common delayed sexual maturity that happens in India and I really started thinking about that,” Behl mentioned including that it’s a topic not spoken about.

The subsequent step for Behl was to have a look at the topic in a broader context. “I realized that culturally, socially, politically, we are a very unique country. We are one of the two most populous countries on the planet, with China, but China has a huge landmass. And we are almost the same number of people very closely packed in together and we have no space. And that somewhere, clicked, and rounded off with my own personal experience of living in a small space with too many people close by. And I realized that how sexuality affects our physical spaces, and how those physical spaces affect our sexuality in turn, was something that was even more exciting – it was not a gaze that someone had taken on a subject like this,” Behl mentioned.

Once the screenplay, by Behl and Atika Chohan, was written, the following stage was to seek out financing. The venture participated within the 2015 Asian Project Market at Busan and it was an extended highway forward for “Agra.” William Jéhannin who had labored with Behl on “Titli” was on board through his UFO Production and the venture tapped into CNC funds in France. Some 40% of the finances was in place by mid-2017, nevertheless it took two extra years to seek out the proper companions in India.

During this time, Behl directed the quick “Binnu Ka Sapna” (2019), which received the youth jury award at Clermont-Ferrand. Saregama India ultimately boarded “Agra,” with Vikram Mehra and Siddharth Anand Kumar as producers. The firm, through its Yoodlee Films division, had a observe file of backing impartial movies, together with Rotterdam and Busan choice “Ajji” and London Film Festival title “Axone.”

“As a studio, we have strategically supported clutter-breaking stories with smaller budgets and strong content. ‘Agra’ was part of this strategy to tell untold stories and the theme itself was very powerful as it addresses the need for personal space and how its lack can impact family dynamics and an individual’s psyche. We wanted to let this film unfold without any creative interference and to support Kanu Behl’s vision wholeheartedly,” Kumar informed Variety.

“Agra” ultimately filmed in June and July 2019. In 2020, when the movie was in the course of put up manufacturing, the pandemic hit and every thing was shut down for 5 months. “It has just been a journey to put the film together, to edit it, because it’s also a film that functions on a very thin line. As as much as you want to empathize with this boy and look at the whole issue of sexuality and sexual repression from the inside, you also don’t want to condone in any manner what he’s doing.”

The movie was shot on location in Agra, town identified for the Taj Mahal, but in addition for its Institute of Mental Health and Hospital. For Behl, it was a deliberate alternative to not present even a glimpse of one of many world’s most well-known monuments. “I really wanted to subvert that because the film anyway is not about the Taj Mahal or that side of the city,” Behl mentioned, including that he received the concept of capturing in Agra due to the hospital. “We all just live in a giant madhouse. And in that sense, this house full of these crazy people is also a representation of that madhouse,” Behl mentioned.

Guru is performed by debutant Mohit Agarwal and the movie additionally stars Priyanka Bose (“Lion”) and Ruhani Sharma, Vibha Chibber, Sonal Jha and Aanchal Goswami in pivotal roles. Guru’s father is performed by Rahul Roy, identified for his romantic lead roles within the Nineties, together with blockbuster “Aashiqui.”

“The character is a serial womanizer so we needed a certain charming, debonair quality to the man. But we also needed at the same time, a very crushed, failed vibe to the guy,” Behl mentioned.

Next up for Behl is “Despatch,” starring Manoj Bajpayee and produced by Ronnie Screwvala. The movie is in post-production and certain for a fall pageant. “It’s a film about an old school crime journalist who’s getting defunct in the world of digital journalism. And, in desperation for a story, he starts investigating a case and ends up getting mixed in something which is way above his pay grade, and how that begins an odyssey into the darkest corners of corporate crime and white-collar crime within India,” Behl mentioned.

“Agra” premieres on May 24.

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