'Thithi' is a philosophical, slice-of-life film with a good dash of humour
'Thithi' is a deep, philosophical and spiritual slice of life film, seen with a good dash of humour.
In a small village of Nodekoppalu in Mandya district in Karnataka, a 101 year old man, rightly called Century Gawda dies while peeing. He is survived by his son Gadappa, grandson Thamanna, and great grandson Abhi. Preparations begin in full swing for Century Gawda’s funeral ceremony — or thithi.
Raam Reddy’s national award winning Kannada film Thithi could not be more far removed from the obvious tale of death, grief and mourning. Instead, it’s a deep, philosophical and spiritual slice of life film, seen with a good dash of humour.
Little wonder then that this Indo-US production gets a national theatrical release with English subtitles, after travelling across festivals and winning prestigious awards. It has also gotten a big thumbs up from the likes of The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola and Shekhar Kapur.
Unlike most filmmakers who would attempt a stunning cinematography to capture the rustic beauty of a village, Reddy focuses only on the character of the village. So, while you see shepherds and goats, women working in the fields and cooking together, and villagers cutting wood; there is no attempt to show the lushness of the trees or the quiet charm of the locale.
To emphasise the very matter of fact attitude of the villagers towards both life and death, Reddy keeps things low key. For a 26 year old Banglorean, alumni of St Stephens college in Delhi and film school in Prague, Reddy seems to have the wisdom and sharpness of Dalai Lama. He explains, “In villages, life is not over-dramatised. It’s our cinematic choice to give a dry treatment to the subject and keep it unemotional or intense. The sound design, the colours were not aimed towards showing the lush greenery but instead to create a lightness. The idea is to blend the philosophical elements lightly so that the story doesn’t go away from the culture of the village. So everyone talks straight in the film.”
And indeed, a sudden, long monologue in the film by Gadappa, is the most straight talk seen in any Indian film. A revelation is not made to look like a revelation, by the simple way in which Gadappa tells his story and the ease with which villagers accept it without a trace of shock. Reddy attributes this to the influence of literature on him, including works of Murakami and Kafka. “As Gadappa says in the film, is it a dream or is it a reality?” Reddy ponders.
It is this smooth blend of realism of rural life with fiction that makes Thithi remarkable. Every character is so real, you could be watching a documentary. The reason being, these are all non-actors. Many filmmakers have used this approach with a great deal of success, as seen in Satyajit Ray’s earlier works and more recently, last year’s national award winning film, Court.
You see strange faces, which become familiar, like a man who springs from nowhere, to dance everytime there is a celebration. The three main characters don’t really interact much with each other. They are seen in their solitary pursuits; Gadappa mostly sitting alone, smoking bidis and drinking; Thamanna, in contrast, manipulating a land inheritance, and the youngest, Abhi, in hot pursuit of a girl whose nose piercing scene is the most evocative of a very familiar India. Each representing various stages of life, come together briefly in an ironical moment of the three men on a motorbike, leading to a deeper and meaningful climax.
Interestingly, the women are anything but stereotyped. One of them (Kamla), stands out in with her body language and her profession, that of a moneylender who orders a guy to be beaten up for his unpaid debts. Such perfect casting took its time to evolve. Reddy spent several months only on the casting, even before writing a script along with his collaborator, Eregowda. ”You are born an actor. Pretending to be someone else is the easiest thing. While auditioning, we would first give them a fight scene,“ Reddy explains his unusual process.
His organic approach reflects in the film. The story uses death as a tool to make a statement on life in all its shades, while staying true to the world it is set in. Art and form couldn’t be a more potent mix than in Thithi.
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