Agra (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

May 24th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Kanu Behl; Cast: Mohit Agarwall, Vipha Chibber, Rahal Roy, Ruhansi Sharma, Anschal Coswami, Pryanka Bose. India/France 2023, 118 min.

Kanu Behl certainly walks on the wild side in Cannes, very much like his countryman Anurag Kashyap with Kennedy. Set in the titular Indian city, Agra is a take on “Crime and Punishment”, where male hero Guru is full of toxic masculinity in an overcrowded, decrepit India, caught between tradition and modern technology, giving few positive identity models for the male youth of today. Agra proves that meaningful sex is the  panacea of the modern world. And unlike drugs it comes free.

Guru (Agarwall), 25, but still lives at home – he even sleeps in his mother’s bedroom. The cramped conditions force his father (Roy) to live on the upper floor with his mistress. Not surprisingly, Guru is confused, imagining a torrid sexual relationship with the nubile Mala (Sharma). He wants to marry her and move into the house, using the spare terrace as his new home. Unfortunately, Mal only exists in his dreams, and his family is unable to convince him of the truth.

In this state of sexual frustration and high anxiety Guru goes out of control. After killing his pet squirrel he is sent away from home and becomes obsessed with ‘phone sex, trying in vain to set up dates with women on the internet, his desire for a relationship taking over his life until dream and reality merge and threaten to swallow him up in surreal images captured on a dizzying handheld camera through the labyrinthine streets of the city. .

Then along comes internet cafe owner Priti (Bose), a forty year-old woman with a limp, who proves to be an ideal sexual playmate. Both are plagued by their family in a complex narrative that sees Behl eventually running out of steam, even though Guru finally becomes his own person, saying good-bye to Mala. Guru has no moral compass for his life’s trajectory, although he eventually finds an emotional touchstone in Priti.  In modern India, it seems as if many are more or less homeless or on the verge of being evicted – jobs are few and far between, and civil servants still have the upper-hand like under British rule. Agra has little pity with society – and if it would not have been for the schmaltzy ending, this could have been a real great feature.



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