My relationship with Titli is that of jealousy
A thought-provoking Director and Producer, Dibakar Banerjee has altered mainstream cinema with films like Khosla Ka Ghosla, Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, and Love Sex Aur Dhokha among others. He talks to us about his latest venture Titli, which has already created quite a buzz. In a frank conversation, he shares his views on Indian cinema, his association with Titli and much more.
Titli is said to be one of the strongest debuts in Indian cinema. Your views on it?
I am the wrong person to ask because I have been involved very intimately with Titli for the last two years. All I know is that from the beginning when I read the script, I was privileged enough to be part of the movie by giving my opinion. To this day, I have still not lost interest in Titli and I am someone who gets bored very quickly. Every time I see the movie, I find something new; every time I see it I laugh and have tears in my eyes. The movie still has its grip on me, that is the only thing that I can say. The rest is the praise that I have heard from outside.
If you were to direct Titli, how would that be?
I have long given up the hope and I have stopped thinking what I would have done with Titli because I was so jealous of Titli and the fact that Kanu was directing it. You know, my relationship with Titli is that of jealousy and am basically trying to tag along with Titli’s team because somehow, I want to keep my hand in the cookie jar (laughs). I don’t know how I would have directed Titli, certainly not with so much ferocity and intensity that Kanu has.
What according to you are the similarities and differences between Titli and Khosla Ka Ghosla?
Well, I can tell you how it is similar; Kanu has waited as long for Titli to release in India as long as I had to for Khosla Ka Ghosla; maybe a few months less. But for Kanu it has been a long and arduous journey and he has paid and made a lot of personal sacrifices for Titli, which will be unsung. How it is different is perhaps that he has had to face fewer insults than I had because 2006 was very different.
Why was there a need for a new trailer for Titli?
Initially, we were running a version of the Cannes trailer but when we showed that cut to the audience, they started saying that the trailer is not really in sync with the film. The film is about a struggle of a family, against the system, against the whole life that we have created for ourselves. Since there is fighting in the trailer, it looked like a thriller, but it is not that. We never made the film like a thriller. Our sales agents and people in France and Cannes said that it is a ‘gritty noir thriller’. But we never made it like a thriller, we made it like a drama film; it’s a story of a household. In fact, the closest parallel that we could think of was Khosla Ka Ghosla. And we cannot get away from the family because fortunately or unfortunately, the film is about that and that is when the whole thing started and we decided to re-do the trailer.
What is the reality that Titli portrays?
I have never been able to see any black and white or someone who is completely good or bad in real life. In fact, the moment I see someone like that it is a sure shot indication that the person is hiding something. I think the existence of something acceptable and something unacceptable to you is the core of life. I mean, Indian films need to be represented well in festivals abroad and at the same time I am saying that the Indian filmmakers shouldn’t give a damn about festivals abroad. Both things should happen together. I don’t know how that is possible, but in life that always happens. You love your family and you hate your family. You keep having fights with somebody on a daily basis, but when that person moves away you keep pining for that person. These emotions are a staple of family life and this is a sure shot example of the black and white mixing together to form a gray and that is what Titli depicts.
Is Titli a character shaped by fate?
I haven’t seen a single character or a single person in my life that is democratic. I think democracy is a system of negotiation that many characters together invent to get along. There are no democratic characters, there is a democratic system. Characters are not anarchists, the main thing about a character is that fate shapes them, events shape them and then they have a choice of shaping themselves and that’s where the film is. So, Titli’s story is that fate placed him where he was, events placed him in the film, but then he shapes the story along with Neelu and his family members.
How does Titli aim to strike a familiar chord with audiences?
We keep talking about the family as it is something that is a static institution that will not change and it always should be put up on a pedestal and worshipped. But Titli shows that family keeps changing, the dynamics between a family keep changing. At one point your father used to say, ‘Shut up and do as I say’, but today your father calls up and his voice has become older, ‘Hi, how are you’ and that’s when your heart twists a bit. You wonder if this is the same father who I used to be so scared of when I was a kid and now he is asking me if I have time for him. I think that is common place for all families.
You remember your brother who used to play with you, but suddenly you realize that your brother is a full grown man and very different from you. There is no common dialogue between you’ll but you are in a family and are sitting across the table and talking to him. You realize that your wife, who you are told to believe, since you are married, is your property. You realize that your wife has a life, in which there is no place for you and she has been forced into this marriage as much as you have. You are assuming that because she is your wife she is your property. But her life is somewhere else and she is just getting by with you. Sounds familiar? It happens to a lot of people. So, I think when you see Titli you will see things like this. You’ll feel that I have been through this, I know this shit and yet nobody has shown it like Kanu has.
Does the Producer’s name, your name, hold great significance for the film?
The problem is that the moment my name was associated with the film, it was automatically assumed that it would be some parallel or alternate cinema. I am very scared of my association with the film because it already gives, sorry to say, a typical ‘elitist’ kind of tag to the film, which is why at one point I had asked Kanu, why are you making me produce the movie. I don’t think that the larger audience beyond a point has any awareness of the producer. So I don’t think it plays that big a part.
Transcribed by Aarti Sukhija