The award-winning short films produced by Terribly Tiny Talkies usually feature light-hearted tales centered around family, friendship, and romance. Kanu Behl’s Binnu Ka Sapna takes things in a much darker direction, told through the point of view of a violent perpetrator. The 32-minute film, which premieres at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival on February 1, centres around Delhi boy Binnu. It takes viewers through his transition from college to adulthood, and how his outlook becomes increasingly hateful and misogynistic.
Binnu’s worldview informs the film’s bold aesthetic style; it features a 1:1 aspect ratio (compressing the cinematic rectangle into a boxed square), extended freeze frames, and abstract visual intercuts. “The early discussions that Siddharth [Diwan, Behl’s go-to director of photography] and me were having were, how do we visually express the emotion that this guy is feeling best?” says Behl. “The answer that we came up with is that it’s a myopic point of view, about a guy who doesn’t see life in all its complexity, and has a boxed-in square perspective of people.” What also contributed to Behl’s decision was the film’s planned distribution online. “It was probably going to come out on YouTube, on our cellphones, which is anyway a square frame these days, so it just felt really correct.”
The middle path
Balancing the film’s weighty subject matter and its extremely subjective point of view was a challenge. “I was so anxious, wondering, will people misunderstand what we were trying to do? Because the idea was not to justify what he [Binnu] does at the end,” says Behl. The film’s voiceover device emerged out of that, so that the audience could understand Binnu’s situation and empathise with him simultaneously.
I ask Behl if he plans to travel with the film for a while before it makes its way online; Titli premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and was screened at over 22 film festivals worldwide. “I would have liked the opportunity for more people across the world to see it,” he admits. But Binnu had a long gestation period — it was shot in 2017 — as Behl spent four months finding its unique rhythm in the editing room. “I really want the film to be seen by people in India now,” he says. “We’re in conversation with a couple of other platforms where it could get an outlet, but if that doesn’t happen, I would see it coming out on the TTT platform sometime really soon.”