A beauty from India, Bengal writer-director Rituparno Ghosh’s Titli takes its title from the 17-year-old girl whose home in Darjeeling includes a huge blowup of Rohit Roy, the Bollywood star Titli would marry even. Much of the film eyes the close relationship between Titli and her mother, and from the start there’s an elusive something about Urmila’s Mona Lisa-smile as her daughter enthuses about the dreamy star. What is it with Urmila?
Mother and daughter are off to the airport to pick up Amar, their husband and father. (He is a tea planter.) A road accident delivers them another airport-headed passenger. It is Rohit Roy! As Titli goes off to buy cigarettes for her idol, Urmila and “Rona”—former lovers—reminisce. They would have married once, but he had no certain future, so Urmila’s parents interceded and struck a practical match. Rona never married—except his career. Returning, cloaked in the heavy mist, Titli hears the truth and finds her adolescent world gently though irreversibly ripped.
Why did you never tell me about you and Rohit? Would you marry Rohit now? Urmila tells Titli, had she married Rona instead of Titli’s father, then she would be their daughter. That isn’t so—a different father would have made a different daughter; ah, but Titli’s obsession with Rohit Roy surely must have made Urmila dream that Titli was their child! Urmila’s loveless (although amicable) marriage has her looking backward with regret; Titli, her crush crushed, can now look forward to the reality of love. Rona? Believing her marriage happy, he writes Urmila to tell her that he, too, is about to marry, deepening further Urmila’s regret.
Aparna Sen, superb, and Konkona Sen Sharma, excellent, play mother and daughter—and in reality are mother and daughter.
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