Agra: Award-winning filmmaker Kanu Behl’s film to have its World Premiere at the prestigious Cannes’ Directors Fortnight, 2023
Award-winning writer-director Kanu Behl’s next Hindi feature film ‘Agra’ produced by Saregama India Ltd, UFO Production, and O28 Films is to have its World Premiere at the upcoming Directors’ Fortnight, an independent section of the Cannes Film Festival, 2023.
Agra is the only Indian feature film in the line-up this year. The festival will be held from May 16, 2023 – May 27, 2023.
Agra is Kanu Behl’s second film to have its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival after his debut film Titli which premiered in the 2014 Cannes Un Certain Regard section.
Directors' Fortnight highlights independent films from throughout the world, a free-spirited, non-competitive selection open to all festival goers.
Agra boasts of an ensemble cast headlined by Rahul Roy (Aashiqui star) who makes a comeback with this film. It also features Priyanka Bose (actor of the Oscar-nominated film Lion), a debut actor Mohit Agarwal in a lead role, Ruhani Sharma, veteran actors Vibha Chibber, Sonal Jha and Aanchal Goswami in pivotal roles.
The film written by Kanu Behl and Atika Chohan is an exploration of sexual dynamics within a family, and the deep dystopian fractures created in a modern India fast shrinking into pigeon-holed spaces.
The film was developed at ‘PJLF Three Rivers residency program - in Italy, with the prestigious ‘Cinema du Monde’ film fund backing it. The film was also part of the FBR section of the Viewing Room at NFDC’s Film Bazaar, 2022.
Kanu Behl, the writer-director of the film says, “Agra has been a deeply personal and difficult exploration for me, a deep dive into the inner entrails of desire and male sexual repression, and an attempt to understand the hoodoo. I’m overjoyed that the film is beginning its journey at Director’s Fortnight and I hope it opens a conversation around sexuality and the ‘homes’ we choose to live in, as it reaches a wider audience. ”
Siddharth Anand Kumar – Sr. VP of Films & Event at Saregama India Ltd. says, “The World premiere of Agra at the Directors’ Fortnight is a huge honour for us. We often credit ourselves as a studio that is into fearless filmmaking and Agra is a perfect example. Kanu Behl had deep faith in the subject and we are glad we made this film with him. I look forward to seeing how the audience reacts to the film at Cannes.”
William Jehannin of UFO Production says, “The creation of Agra has been an incredible adventure. I feel deeply honoured to have collaborated with an Indian artist like Kanu Behl for the creation of his film, which talks about a subject both intensely local and also global. The fact that we birth a unique, independent and totally free film shows signs of a very successful creative co-production between India and France and I’m excited for the screening at Director’s Fortnight.”
“I was so excited when I read the script of Agra because it spoke about things that had been knots within me for years. As we filmed it and I lived each day with my character, I burned and exhumed those knots and the journey became a transformative experience. I’m so excited to share this special film with the world. ”
Guru (25), a sexually repressed young boy, lives in a small house in Agra. He sleeps in the same room as his mother, and on the upper floor his father lives with a mistress. In an already tiny house, the only available space is the terrace on the upper floor. Guru insists that he loves Mala, an imaginary girl, and will marry her and live with her in a room on the terrace just like his father does with his mistress.
‘Agra’ then, becomes the odyssey of a young Indian man’s sexual coming of age as he goes from courting an imaginary girl; to sex chatting with an unknown girl online; to finally bedding a 40 year old cripple woman and ‘falling in love with her’, ending up having sex with for the first time. As everyone else in the house fights for the terrace to be used for their own material gains, Guru struggles with his sexuality.
Agra has been a deeply personal and difficult exploration for me - that of a sense of repressed sexuality within and the search for its roots. After Titli, I was asking myself what I want to talk about, and I felt like there was a caged impulse which was straining to get out and I wanted to understand it. More so because I felt it was a gaze, I had seen in almost every other Indian boy/man around me.
What was it that led to this delayed sexual maturity in India?
A strange familial hive bonding that is combined with a severe lack of space... Too many people packed together in too many corners like a pack of sardines. As I explored this central idea, the film began to emerge. Guru's fight for the empty space on the terrace became emblematic of his epic dual struggles: First for his own sanity, the concretisation of his understanding of relationships, the difference between sex and love, trust and faith. For his own understanding by the end that even though the sexual act might be the purest expression of love, within it lie the cracks of myriad human desire.
Second, more importantly, I wanted to talk about the larger struggle for Guru. The one he fights against the people and the world at large. Slowly realising that the space problem in his house is real, and the best solution perhaps is the most brutal. It cannot be solved by a mistress or her money, but by a more basic amputation. To give the base of the house away and go more vertical... make a 'deal' with the devil and get everyone what they desire, making himself a part of the system.
This to me is in direct correlation to the rise of the new 'vertical', developing India and the right wing echoes we're seeing in our country. Where the disenfranchised are left between the devil and the deep sea. The film for me then, is an emotional, human and structural parable for the deep fracture of our economic/spatial dystopia.