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On His Cannes-bound Film "Agra," Kanu Behl: to comprehend sexual repression

In his film “Agra,” which will have its global debut at the present Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday, director Kanu Behl says he wanted to examine sexual suppression, an emotion that is often not addressed in India.

The film, which will be shown at Cannes as part of Directors' Fortnight, will mark Behl's return to the illustrious event that honoured his first feature film “Titli” (Un Certain Regard category) in 2014.

The director drew comparisons between his two films, saying “Agra” depicts the “soul of a troubled boy” while “Titli” was about “family” and “circularity.”

The movie “Agra” is about sexual repression, the concept of physical spaces, and how our suppressed sexuality eventually has an impact on the physical places around us. and how our sexual lives are ultimately impacted by physical settings. Between the two, it is a play, Behl said PTI in an interview.

“I wanted to comprehend a damaged boy's soul, no matter how challenging the road would be. I was interested in learning more about sexual suppression and sexual maturity. It's a sentiment that is not often spoken in our nation, he said.

The filmmaker, who worked with Dibakar Banerjee on films like 'Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye' and co-wrote 'LSD: Love Sex Aur Dhokha' with him, said he often questioned why sexual repression wasn't a topic of conversation.

Later, he came to the conclusion that it may be related to how “each of us has a public life, a personal life, and then a secret life,” Behl said.

“I find it incredibly intriguing that you keep certain aspects of your private life a secret from others. I wanted to visit and investigate some of the items we play with when we are alone ourselves in those private areas, he said.

The story of “Agra” by Behl and Atika Chohan centres on Guru, a young, unmarried contact centre employee who is 24 years old and still lives with his parents. Guru longs for a room and genuine closeness. Guru slowly starts to fall apart as he is caught between his family, the outside world, and his inner “mind.”

When asked whether any of the movie's scenes could be painful to watch, the Kapurthala-born filmmaker said that it would depend more on the audience than it would on the plot.

“If you've done your research as an artist, whatever is reflected is the reality of life as it is all around us,” the artist said. We are not constructing any fictitious world. The Satyajit Ray Film and TV Institute graduate said, “Art borrows from life, and that is what it is.

According to Behl, the family in “Agra” is quite different from the one shown in “Titli,” and the people in his most recent movie “are more like individual units.”

“Agra” is more of a movie about people participating in different kinds of transactionality than it is about a family, he said.

The world-building in his movies stands in sharp contrast to how families are often portrayed in popular movies, which the filmmaker considers to be “a form of advertising of emotions.”

“They are presented to you on a platter in a deceptive manner, causing you to have an orgasmic sense of 'everything is good' at the conclusion. Therefore, when the movie is finished, there is little to no churning', he said, adding that although such films are vital, they shouldn't be the only ones occupying the cultural space in a community.

All of Behl's tales, including “Titli,” “Binnu Ka Sapna,” and “Agra,” examine the masculine mental landscape. The director claims that it is simpler for him to access a man's psyche.

“Since I'm still honing my skill, I'm a bit concerned that I won't be able to fully represent a female viewpoint. I've thus avoided it for the time being,” he stated.

Behl said that the cultural and social framework in which these tales are placed is what results in the underlying sexism and patriarchy that exists in society, although each of his novels explores a different issue.

Every movie has a political and cultural point of view. When characters are placed in certain circumstances, it is impossible to escape the feeling of an examination of patriarchy and sexism, he said.

The cast of “Agra” includes Mohit Agarwal, Priyanka Bose, Vibha Chhibber, Rahul Roy, Anchal Goswami, and Sonal Jha.

One of the first performers they auditioned for the role of the family patriarch, according to “Aashiqui” actor Roy, was Behl. The actor, however, said that the role had “something personal” for him, and he gave his all to the three-month workshop, the director remembered.

He was the first person to arrive at the session and the last one to depart. He identified a personal connection with the screenplay and decided early on that he would play the character alone. He then fully assumed the role, according to Behl.

The next movie directed by Behl, “Dispatch,” stars Manoj Bajpayee and is about dominance in the media sector.

On May 27, the 76th Cannes Film Festival will come to an end.

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