Award-winning filmmaker Kanu Behl’s next Hindi feature ‘Agra’ received an overwhelming response at its premiere screening at the Directors’ Fortnight, an independent section of the Cannes Film Festival, 2023. The film received a 5-minute standing ovation.
The spellbound audience applauded the film with a standing ovation and looked very receptive to the genre and the film itself. The premiere was attended by a large section of Indian and International media along with people who had reserved their seats for the premiere well in advance.
An Indo-French co-production by Saregama India Ltd, UFO Production, and O28 Films, Agra is the only Indian feature film in the Directors’ Fortnight.
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.
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. It 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, “It was overwhelming to see a story that took me on a very personal journey, received with such love and warmth on the global stage. ‘Agra’ reflects a very specific milieu but the story it tells about the politics of sexual repression and the tangled skeins of desire, is universal and that’s what the audiences responded to. I feel truly rewarded that the film’s journey has begun on such an uplifting note. To see it being celebrated in the prestigious Director’s Fortnight at Cannes gives me hope that it will open the way for difficult conversations about things we don’t address in our homes.”
Siddharth Anand Kumar – Sr. VP of Films & Events at Saregama India Ltd. says, “The premiere of ‘Agra’ at the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes was a matter of great pride for us. As a narrator of contemporary truths, Kanu Behl has done a great job and as a studio unafraid to experiment or take risks, we feel proud to have backed this film. The fact that it has been received at Cannes with so much love is very encouraging and we hope to make many more brave films that say the unsaid and explore uncharted territories of the human psyche.”
‘Agra’ is about 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.