Kanu Behl, the writer of Love Sex Aur Dhoka and the director of Titli, is working on his next feature, a psychological drama titled Agra. Meanwhile, Behl has directed a riveting short film for Colosceum Media and Terribly Tiny Talkies, which revisits the culture of troubled masculinity and dysfunctional families that have featured in Behl’s works. In the Delhi-set Binnu Ka Sapna, a young semi-formed man with an abusive father stumbles through life, chafing at the expectations placed on him and channeling his frustration into toxic relationships with women. The 32-minute film has been shot on a 1:1 format, which renders the frames as squares rather than rectangles and conveys the intimate and unsettling nature of Binnu’s misadventures. Binnu, played by Chetan Sharma, provides a deceptively impersonal voiceover throughout that takes viewers deep inside his twisted mind.

Binnu Ka Sapna has been shot by Siddharth Diwan and includes original songs by Sneha Khanwalkar. It will be premiered at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival (February 1-9) in the international competition section and will be distributed through Terribly Tiny Talkies on YouTube and other channels later. In an interview, Behl talked Scroll.in through the film’s themes and the choice of the unusual shooting format.

‘A film about anger and its roots’

“This film was conceptualised in early 2017. I had been in development for my feature film Agra. I met Anuj Gosalia and Sharanya Rajgopal at Terribly Tiny Talkies, and they wanted to do something together. One idea had been developing – a film about anger, and its roots.

I had made short films as exercises while studying at the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute. My diploma film was a farcical comedy about an Indian scientist who is disillusioned because his work is constantly being upstaged by a German scientist. He comes up with a plan to live longer.

For Binnu Ka Sapna, we used the 1:1 aspect ratio. Cinematographer Siddharth Diwan and I realised that Binnu has a myopic gaze, and is not able to see things in their full perspective. We wanted you to be inside his head. Those square, choked frames without any width gave the feeling of looking at a man with blinkers.

Binnu Ka Sapna. Courtesy Colosceum Media.

A similar aspect ratio was used in Xavier Dolan’s Mommy, but that’s slightly different, at 1:51. Those frames were taller and gave you a lot more head room. Here, we were trying to cramp the image from all sides and make it feel square.

This film might also end up getting consumed on cellphones – that aspect ratio is real now.

We also used still frames and shots of Facebook pages within the film. We were playing with the idea of isolation and loneliness and capitalism in every corner, whether in the streets where Binnu roams or when he catches the woman he is attracted to with another guy. It is also about trying to soak in all the images Binnu sees around him. I was attempting to take the experience towards personal anger – although the responsibility for Binnu’s actions lies at his doorstep, it has roots elsewhere.

I found Chetan Sharma, who plays Binnu, in Bombay. I think this might be his first or second performance. The role had to be cast very carefully. He was going to do something dastardly, and we had travel with him and empathise with his journey but also not know what he would do in the end. He had to have that innocence but also grow into a part that required a certain unravelling.

Binnu Ka Sapna. Courtesy Colosceum Media.

The voiceover was a device to take you inside Binnu’s head and bring you out of the dramatic dialogue universe that might lull you into the comfort of watching fiction. The idea was to separate and fragment the experience.

The theme of Sneha Khanwalkar’s music is nostalgia. When you see cases of extreme violence that come out of a certain class, their music tastes are still from the 1980s and ’90s, probably for that lyrical and musical quality but also because these songs provide an anchor. We have a ghazal song and a typically Bollywood party song that morphs into Binnu’s mindscape.

I was slightly wary of how women who watched the film at test screenings would react. They empathised with the guy, while men have pushed away from the film, saying it is someone else’s story.”

Kanu Behl.

(As told to Nandini Ramnath.)