As the film begins we see a wrinkly old man with a world weary face sit outside his home. It is the place where he spends most of his day by calling people names, passing snide remarks and getting into petty squabbles with passerby’s on the road. If we look around, we can spot many such people who spend their entire day often with groups with quite a few people of their age discussing every possible topic under the sun. The scenario is not too different in villages, where one can find elderly people indulging in similar trivial discussions about many things and passing judgments on the same. Of course not all of them may get into an argument with the people on the road or pass snide remarks at them, for not all of them are Century Gowda – the 100 year old man (hence the name) with whom the film begins and whose demise kick starts the story.
Raam Reddy’s debut feature debut film Thithi tells the story of three generations of Century Gowda’s family. This includes Gowda’s grandson Thamana, octogenarian son Gadappa and great grandson Abhi. The idyllic life of each of these individuals is thrown out of gear post Gowda’s demise which ensures a fresh set of troubles for them. Thamanna is worried about the piece of land left behind by Gowda, which he cannot sell without Gadappa’s consent who is happy living in a world of his own, while Abhi is busy wooing a shepherd’s daughter. Combined with the 11th day rituals the family is preparing for, following Gowda’s demise, it leads to the conflicts of the family being a public spectacle.
Using this premise as a backdrop, director Raam Reddy creates a vivid portrayal of the attitudes, perspectives and desires of three generations of a family, each of which is different. The script evolved during Reddy’s visit to writer Ere Gowda’s village which helped them to shape the film’s screenplay. And it seems like the duo have put their experiences to great use.
In cities, people are alienated from each other including their next door neighbours, despite staying in large residential complexes. But the villages are a close knit affair, where people are privy to the smallest details of each other’s lives. Reddy and Gowda have brought out these nuances of the rural life wonderfully in the film. Be it the bohemian Gadappa, the lothario Abhi, his father Thamana or the local female money lender, these are characters one can surely encounter in villages and smaller towns of India. Their performances are natural and lifelike despite none of the cast members being professional actors. Getting non professional actors to shed their inhibitions and give such natural performances is a skill filmmakers should learn from the likes of Reddy and Nagraj Manjule (whose recent blockbuster Sairat features an amazing performance by the leading lady Rinku Rajguru who also is a non professional actor).
It is also interesting to note how Thithi weaves a lighthearted tale around a topic as serious as death. And the characters are well fleshed out and give you enough reasons to empathise with them and enjoy their shenanigans. Doron Tempert’s cinematography captures the rural landscape well, while the editing by Reddy and John Zimmerman ensures the film does not overstay its welcome.
The film is a delightful fare that celebrates the people of the villages and their lives. It is not surprising that the film won several accolades including the National award for Best Kannada film and a Golden Leopard at Locarno 2015. For one does not often get to see an Indian film that depicts the heartland of India in such a charming, accurate and realistic way. The film is currently playing in Bangalore and a few other cities of Karnataka with English subtitles. If the film is playing in your town, then you surely shouldn’t miss out on it. For film buffs staying outside Karnataka, one hopes the film makes it soon to other cities very soon.