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#AllRounder: Sendhil Ramamurthy talks Fathers, Sons and ‘Brahmin Bulls’

It’s difficult to maintain any kind of objectivity when interviewing someone with as much floppy-haired charm – not to mention that chiselled jaw-line, an extraordinarily husky voice and oodles of humility – as Sendhil Ramamurthy.

Those wonderful attributes however, are merely the icing on a cake that would make Mary Berry envious for Ramamurthy, 41, boasts a CV that is remarkable not only for how prolific it is but also for its sheer variety.

Born in Chicago to physician parents originally from South India, Ramamurthy’s first instinct – unsurprisingly – was to follow his parents into medicine before the acting bug took hold.

Arming himself with a degree in history – and what better way to successfully contextualize any character than having a good grasp of history? – Ramamurthy first lit up London’s West End in plays such as ‘A Servant of Two Masters’ and ‘Indian Ink’ before settling down as a working actor, appearing in everything from ‘Casualty’ and ‘Ellen’ to ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and Gurindher Chadha’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Afterlife’.

He is best known however, as Professor Mohinder Suresh in the mind and time-bending sci-fi hit ‘Heroes’.

His latest project is the curiously-named ‘Brahmin Bulls’, a film unlike any Ramamurthy has done before – in scale, characterization and pace.

Written and directed by Mahesh Pailoor, the film follows the fortunes of LA architect Sid Sharma (Ramamurthy), whose life is thrown into turmoil due to multiple simultaneous crises.  His marriage is on the rocks, his job is slightly less parlous and he’s smoking an unhealthy amount of dope.

Adding to his woes is the arrival on the scene is his father Ashok (the outstanding Roshan Seth) who decides a sojourn to sunny California is the cure for his own ailments. 

The highly accomplished Pailoor charts the journey of these two flawed men as they come to terms with life and each other. 

It is a deeply moving film that reminded me very much of Satyajit Ray’s work: slow-paced, beautifully shot, funny, moving and with characters that are utterly compelling.

Ramamurthy is excellent – giving a nuanced performance as a man coming of age.

I caught up with him in London to find out more.

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#BreakingFree: Kanu Behl, Titli, Fathers and Sons and Indian Indies

The rising visibility of Indian indies has indicated rapid changes in style and content and this year, Kanu Behl’s impressive crime thriller 'Titli' now defines this form as mainstream. 

Producer Dibakar Banerjee is supported by Bollywood distributor-exhibitor Yash Raj Films in this project which opened at Cannes earlier this year. 

A car-jacking gang in Delhi apparently inspired Behl to write this thriller story which later also becomes a narrative of rebellion against patriarchal authority and family dysfunction.  

Titli, the youngest member of the gang, struggles to escape the illegal business and his authoritative brother (Ranvir Shorey).

His brothers force him into marriage but the new bride Neelu surprisingly makes a deal with  him to break free from the oppressive family.

Set within the confined spaces of a criminal family, the film moves assuredly in this dark world of corruption and gender violence.

The city in this noir film, barely conceals violence under the surface.

The tension between the tyrannical father, brutish brother and Titli is sustained through a plot of betrayals amidst cutthroats and dishonest businessmen.

Writer director Kanu Behl started work on the script while assisting Dibakar Banerjee on Love, Sex and Dhoka.

Selected by the NFDC Film Bazaar’s Screenwriter’s Lab Titli won the post-production award at Film Bazaar Work in Progress Lab.

It was viewed by the Cannes screening committee and was selected in Un Certain Regard for 2014.

Newcomers Shashank Arora and Shivani Raghuvanshi were selected for the lead roles as Behl wanted fresh approaches to the parts. 

Shot in run-down neighbourhoods of  Delhi, most of the drama is in a cramped family home from which the protagonist wishes to escape.

Grainy images in Super 16 (Siddharth Diwan), labyrinthine spaces, hazy tube lights, absence of real light, create a claustrophobic space within which actors improvise without a ready script.

Behl and co-scripter Katariya explore power, control, simmering anger in relationships so violence is not merely physical but psychological. 

Fleshed out characters emerge in fascinating layers of complexity and surprises.  The calm observant father (Behl’s father Lalit Behl) who is the actual controlling force, belligerent Vikram (Shorey) tyrannising his wife, Neelu shifting from reluctant wife to flirtatious lover, the protagonist embroiled in violence even as he wishes to escape it. 

Following a theme with several festival entries from world cinema, Titli offers an universal spirit of ordinary people struggling against their oppressive worlds to find release.

Watch Behl talk to the UKAsian during this year's London Film Festival discussing'Titli', fathers and sons and being an independent filmmaker in India today.

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