Producer Dibakar Banerjee and Team Titli – Lalit Behl, Ranvir Shorey, Amit Sial, Shashank Arora and Shivani Raghuvanshi – in conversation with Team Box Office India
BOI: Let’s start with the producer. How did the journey of Titli start?
Dibakar Banerjee (DB): The journey of Titli started out of jealousy and a feeling of rivalry. (Laughs)
Ranvir Shorey (RS): Like all great films do. (Laughs)
DB: Jealousy because I wasn’t directing this film and Kanu (Behl) was. I have known Kanu for a long time. I didn’t try to steal the film from him but I could have coaxed him to let me direct it. I could have convinced him to write another film in return for letting me direct this one as it is a small film. But I didn’t do it because I knew that this would be one of the biggest debuts of all time, in content-oriented Indian cinema. The sense of rivalry arose from the fact that my friend, Anurag Kashyap, keeps producing films. I think he himself has lost count! And everybody tells me, ‘Haan Anurag produce kar raha hai,’ and there is this sort of accusatory look in their eyes that says, ‘Ke tum kya kar rahe ho.’
It is very difficult for me to get out of my films let alone get into somebody else’s film. I am either fully there or not there; I cannot manage that half-way thing. Not many people know that YRF was interested in the Titli the script, which was making waves even before YRF and DBP struck a co-production deal. Anurag said to me, “Listen, you had better produce Titli otherwise I will. So I called up Kanu and said, ‘Kanu, good news, Anurag wants to produce it.’ And, he said, ‘No, Dibakar, I want you to produce it and that is the way it shall be.’ Obviously, I couldn’t say ‘no’. By then, my creative association with Titli was so deep that for me kuch alag si feeling nahi hui. It was as if it was my film, except that I am not directing it.
BOI: What was it about the script or the story that was so attractive to you?
DB: Everything!!! As the readers of Box Office India know, I come from a tradition of blockbuster Bollywood hits. (Laughs)
So my association with scripts is very personal. It has to come from where I come, the kind of life I have lived, it has to move my heart, and the audience must also feel the same way. Due to this misconception, I have kept making films and I am still doing so. People are supporting me and that builds confidence. It is probably misplaced, the kind of films I make, the kind of scripts I like… there is a place for films like that in Bollywood. Otherwise a director like me wouldn’t be able to survive at all.
You know how my films have performed, their financial position and commercial position. I have just about managed to survive on the fringes. But I feel that along with the big money makers, Bollywood must also have a few films that provoke the audience, that confront the audience and which shake up the audience. Some of them may do well financially and some may not.
When I read the Titli script, I felt that, first of all, the simple story is the most known story in the Hindi film tradition. Ek parivar hai, us parivar mein ek chotta ladka hai jo us parivar se nikalna chahta hai because usko parivar ke business se problem hai. Then iss chakkar mein uski shadi karai jaati hai. And then what happens. You can imagine this film with Amrish Puri, Sunny Deol, Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shroff or you can imagine it with Nasseruddin Shah, a young Pooja Bhatt and Aamir Khan. This story can apply to any family in any country anywhere in the world. And it is a hit story.
Titli is almost like the other side of Khosla Ka Ghosla in many ways, including the scooter ride. The other day, I watched Titli and, funnily, it reminded me of the Pravin Dabas-Tara Sharma scene on the scooter, going away from the family.But Kanu has found an angle which has never been seen on the screen before. And that angle is based on one aspect… All of us talk about how we love our family. But I know deep in my heart that it is not all that simple. We love our families and we hate our families, we fight with our families, we can’t live with them and we can’t live without them. But not many families show this side. Most films show that parivar hai toh bhagwan hai toh sab kuch acha hai aur parivar ek saath ladayi shuru hoti hai but baad mein sab acha ho jata hai. But all of us sitting around this table… we are living example that we are still struggling with our families.
BOI: So was it the important factor for you to back it? You could have produced a very non-Dibakar kind of film, yet this film has your stamp.
DB: Actually, this doesn’t have my chhap; people are only assuming that it has. When people watch it, they will realise it is much better than anything Dibakar Banerjee has ever done.
Amit Sial (AS): This is an un-Dibakarist kind of film.
DB: I don’t know what ‘un-Dibakarist’ would be. I don’t even know what Dibakarist is.
RS: It is like an anti-Khosla Ka Ghosla. They say there is a positive universe and a negative universe. Khosla Ka Ghosla would be the positive universe and Titli the negative, the darker side of an Indian family.
The film makes no judgements and portrays things that you usually see. In reality, it is mix of Khosla Ka Ghosla and Titli. You know, the two emotions Dibakar was just talking about – that you love your family but you also hate your family. But more importantly, again as Dibakar was saying, you can try to move away from your family but you can’t really. That’s the most important peg of Titli.
BOI: Dibakar, take us behind the casting process, and then each one of you can tell us about it.
DB: Kanu would have been the best person or Atul Mongia to talk about this. I wasn’t involved, so it is better that the actors talk about how they were cast.
RS: Kanu came with the script and said he had written a character keeping me in mind. It was very flattering because I don’t get to hear that a lot, ke aapko soch ke likha hai. I thought this was his first film. So I agreed to read it. When I did, I had goose bumps all over. I mean, I was crying, I was laughing, I was blown away by the script. Then I wrote him a long SMS, telling him how much I loved the script and that I would love to do the film. I was just lucky that it fell into my lap thanks to Kanu and Dibakar.
DB (Cuts in): Honestly, I was scared, I was, like, arey Ranvir toh young hai.
RS: He felt the same way during Khosla Ka Ghosla too. Even then, he took six auditions.
DB: When casting for Khosla… the actor I had in mind for that part was Shiney (Ahuja). He too would have done it well but by that time Shiney wanted to be a hero and wanted a lead role. Jaideep (Sahni) kept telling me to meet Ranvir and Vinay (Pathak). He said they were VJs but were good actors too and not many people knew that. Anyway, back to Titli… the last film of Ranvir’s that I had watched was Bheja Fry, which was very different from Khosla. So I said he looks hip and intellectual. And when I saw the footage of Titli, I told him it was his best performance to date.