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For maker of ‘Agra’ Kanu Behl, films are not about conveying messages from pedestals

Mumbai, June 29 2024-

Filmmaker Kanu Behl, who has been garnering praise across film festival circuits for his film ‘Agra’, shared his opinion on films as a medium for conveying a larger message.

The director also shared the idea behind ‘Agra’, which recently won Best Actor and Best Film honours at the New York Indian Film Festival.

Kanu shared that, for him, films are not about conveying messages from a pedestal.

Speaking with IANS, Kanu said: “With ‘Agra’, I was interested in talking about sexual repression and the areas of our secret lives that are rarely discussed in India. Initially, I wasn’t sure if the film offered a fresh perspective on this subject until I started looking at it from the lens of physical spaces and how they affect our sexual lives and vice-versa. That’s when the film shaped up into what it is now. Films for me are not about conveying messages from pedestals.”

He said that the idea behind the film is to initiate a broader conversation around sexuality and spaces on the margins in a country like India, which is now more than ever on the brink of such discussions.

Talking about the casting process, the director told IANS that the process was “exhaustive” as it lasted for seven months and spanned five different cities in India.

“What I was looking for were faces that could reflect the unspoken histories of the characters subliminally and spiritually. Each spoken word, reflecting hidden turmoil, was important to me. Mohit, for the role of ‘Guru’, turned out to be a key choice, as he not only nailed a great audition but additionally had the right physical attributes for the part. His soft face and empathetic eyes were necessary to keep the audience hooked on the difficult journey they were going to go on with this character,” he said.

For the character of ‘Priti’, he had always envisioned Priyanka Bose, even while writing the film.

Kanu shared: “The parts of her that were yet undiscovered as a performer intrigued me immensely, and together we were able to carve out an almost unrecognisable visage. Rahul Roy came in without all the airs of a big star and fully immersed himself in a difficult part. Vibha Chibber and Sonal Jha were able to shed their seasoned skins and go on a new journey to construct their parts differently than their usual process. And the other two young guns, Aanchal Goswami and Ruhani Sharma, were discoveries in their own right.”

The director stated that he and his team did not look at the film differently than any other film just because it was speaking about sexuality.

“The idea was to look at it as a film about people struggling with expressing their innermost desires and transacting around those, rather than think about it as a film about sex. The major challenges were in first avoiding self-censoring and writing the film honestly. And then, subsequently, in raising the financing for a film like this from within India. It took time, but eventually, we found the perfect producers in Yoodle Films,” Kanu said.

The director believes that authenticity is never an issue once you have the right crew in place.

“Right down from the actors to the production designer, Parul Sondh, who is the soul of the film, to the cinematographer Saurabh Monga, my long-time collaborator Fabeha on costume, and Pritam Das on sound design, all of us together found the eyes, ears, and spirit of the film,” he said. (Agency)

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