Kanu Behl On His Short Film Binnu Ka Sapna: “It Is More Nakedly About Violence Than Titli”

The filmmaker on his preoccupation with violence, shooting in an unusual aspect ratio, and his next film, Agra
Kanu Behl On His Short Film Binnu Ka Sapna: “It Is More Nakedly About Violence Than Titli”

Binnu Ka Sapna is an odd title for a film that deals with violence in a young man – Titli, the director Kanu Behl's first feature film, which was about the youngest member of a family of carjackers in Delhi trying to break free, had a similarly contrasting title. Behl's thirty minute film pivots on a violent, terrible act, inflicted on a woman. By working backwards to the incident's emotional, logical origin, the film tries to find when the seeds of this violence was sown.

We are taken through the various stages of Binnu's life – his past relationships with women, his career choices, childhood, further back to before he was born, to another violent, terrible act, inflicted on another woman. The title's dreaminess permeates the telling – narrated by the protagonist, played by Chetan Sharma – which makes it at once a critical study and an empathetic portrayal. The film has a distinct look, shot, in large parts, in 1:1 aspect ratio, and occasional use of still photos. Light ghazals (composed by Sneha Khanwalkar) punctuate a harsh, atonal soundscape.

Binnu Ka Sapna will be shown at the Clermont-Ferrand International short film festival, one of the most important festivals for short films in the world (to be held February 1-9). The film, produced by Colosceum Media and Terribly Tiny Talkies, will be made available on Youtube.

In an interview ahead of its world premiere, Behl spoke about his preoccupation with violence as a filmmaker, shooting in an unusual aspect ratio, and his next film, Agra. 

Edited Excerpts:

Like Titli, Binnu ka Sapna also deals with violence, family.

I have been trying to address violence and look at violence. Binnu Ka Sapna is a film more nakedly about violence than Titli, which was more about oppression. Titli was thematically based on a lot of RD Laing's works such as "Politics of the Family," and it was trying to indicate a certain circularity in play. With Binnu, I was trying to investigate the ripples that are caused by that circularity.

For me, Binnu was also an attempt into looking at the perpetrator more as an individual. After a point, I wanted to take the idea of circularity further and say circularity toh theek hai, but what about individual responsibility too?

When we see or hear about a violent act, it is just left at surface level – the perpetrator needs to be punished or locked away or banished. These days people are even talking about killing people, and hanging them or whatever. But that doesn't change the system. There is something endemic within the system which needs to be addressed. This film was an attempt to understand this behaviour.

Can it be said that Binnu Ka Sapna is about finding the root of violence men perpetrate on women?

For me, it is not about male violence per se. The perpetrator here just happens to be man. Women, I think, can be equally violent in other context and circumstances. Maybe that's a different film. The reason I have chosen Binnu is because I myself am a man, and I can probably understand and relate to it better. At this point, there are several personal experiences that are attached to the creation of the film.

It's really easy to try to bracket this as an anger that men perpetrate on women. I think any sort of violence cannot be perpetrated from one end. The fact that there is friction and there is violence germinating from it means that there are two parties at play, and more often than not, two equal parties at play. If you know anger is being perpetrated on you then you are an equal participant within it because you are not being able to locate it, you are not being able to somehow separate it, or push it away from your life.

The film has a stream-of-consciousness kind of narration. It also has an unusual aspect ratio, which puts the viewer inside Binnu's head. 

We chose the 1:1 aspect ratio. We specifically wanted it to feel box-like. When me and Siddharth (Dewan, cinematographer) started talking about the film we realised that it's nearly from inside his head. It's a very limited, blinkered point-of-view, and we wanted that claustrophobia to reflect in how the image was shaped. We specifically chose the aspect ratio because it would, sort of, organically go with the story we were trying to tell.

Your next feature film Agra also features a young boy as the protagonist (like Titli and Binnu). What's the status of the film?

Agra thematically goes into another corner. The only thing it has in common with Titli and Binnu is the protagonist being of a certain age group and being a man. It's in development right now; it's a French co-production. We'd been developing the screenplay for the last two years, it's pretty close to where it should be. We are looking out for finances in India. We are ready to go into prep.

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