By Bhanvi Satija:
Deaths and funerals are invariably associated with grief and despair. As far as feature films go, deaths of a character are part of the plot to trigger an expected set of tears in its audience. And yet, in reality, more often than not one can hear relatives whispering about how much Sheetal scored in her Board exam or what was Mrs. Sharma’s last holiday destination, during a funeral ceremony – where some mourn and the others comfort and yet others, are only there for free food. Would you expect a film, however, to depict any of this? ‘Thithi’, a recently released Kannada film, delineates the reality of death as it is – far removed from the vivid description of emotions of grief on a character’s death; instead portraying with sheer honesty what a Thithi ceremony (funeral ceremony, performed on the 11th day after someone’s death) would look like.
It is a nonchalant story revolving around the lives of three generations of sons after their patriarch’s death. Like father, like son – an age old idiom, meaning that the son tends to do what his father did before him; ‘Thithi’, however, proves just the opposite. Century Gowda (Singri Gowda), so named because he lives past 100, is a man known in the local area both for the good and the bad deeds. His daily schedule involves sitting outside his home and passing remarks at the villagers passing by – but one fine morning, as he moves to the backyard to relieve himself – he dies a sudden death.
The reactions that follow from the three generations after him, bring about the stark contrast between the fathers and sons – while Gadappa (the eldest son) shrugs a ‘no big deal’ to the news, Thamanna (Gadappa’s son) instantly thinks of the land that Gadappa has now inherited, while Abhi (Gadappa’s grandson) is barely shown to care.
Gadappa, is an old man himself who wanders warily about the village, knocking down bottles of Tiger Brandy and playing a self-invented game of tiger-sheep with the village children. Thamanna, is a family man with responsibilities, and as the name suggests has a lot of desires, mostly materialistic. The grandson, Abhi is a carefree young boy who likes to roam around with friends, gamble away his father’s money and during the course of the movie, chases a shepherdess.
Set in the village of Nodekopplu in Karnataka, which is the hometown of the film’s co-writer Eregowda, ‘Thithi’ develops around the grand thithi ceremony of Century Gowda, the responsibility of which is on Thamanna’s (over)burdened shoulders, since Gadappa seems to be least interested in performing any rituals, or for that matter, anything else.
The unlike father, unlike son characteristics of these men evolve throughout the movie, gracefully capturing the estrangement that these pair of fathers and sons feel from each other. Gadappa and Thamanna share a relationship only because of the family land in Gadappa’s name. While Gadappa is annoyed with the constant requests of his son to come to the office with him, Thamanna doesn’t understand the nomadic nature of his father who refuses to officially transfer the family land to his name, ultimately forcing him to adopt desperate (illegal) measures to do so. Abhi also shares a relationship with his father that is mixed with feelings of carelessness and the fear of getting beaten up. And as Gadappa’s relationship with Century Gowda is concerned, he narrates it himself to a deeply engrossed audience in his matter-of-factly tone – which is in sharp contrast to the tragic content of the story being narrated.
Throughout the movie, the story of these three men runs almost in isolation from each other. These lives come together, and so does the whole village, on the day of Century’s Thithi ceremony – when Thamanna and Gadappa’s plans go haywire and Abhi seems to be the only one getting what he wants. ‘Thithi’ is unlike the conventional escapist feature films; it is real, so real that most of its cast is made up of actual village people playing themselves. Apart from the strong male characters that the movie features, it has some interesting female characters to look forward to – the abusive wife of Thamanna’s neighbour, a scary moneylender, Thamanna’s wife, and Cauvery, the shepherdess whom Abhi is after. The satirical undertone and the subtle humour of the film are sure to keep you engrossed in the movie for its entire duration.
‘Thithi’ has been internationally acclaimed and has won several awards including the Swatch Best First Feature (Locarno International Festival), the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Kannada, plus several others at the Mumbai Film Festival, Pune Film Festival, Bengaluru International Film Festival, San Francisco Film Festival and a few more. The director of the film, Raam Reddy, is a debutant and yet, his style of filmmaking is being described as new-age, and with a hint of Emir Kusturica’s spirit and style. It’s evident that the film is no ‘Dabbang’, or ‘Dilwale’ and might not even land in the 100/300/500 crore bunch of movies that we all have been spending our precious money on. However, it’s definitely worth a shot.
The movie displays characters that are you and I in every form, any of us could be Thamanna or Abhi or Cauvery – characters that are so realistic that one could reach out and feel them. The story captures the contrasts of the three generations, bringing to light possible reasons of why one generation fails to understand the other. It puts out the social order of the village as it is – an order dominated by men, in which women struggle to find their space. It beautifully breaks one’s expectations from a conventional cinematic feature and yet manages to heartily entertain its audience. It represents life and its characters as they are, for who they are and there is very little room for you to escape reality when you enter the hall this time. If you are wondering that language could be a barrier, it most definitely is not – for the film comes with English subtitles.
In a cinematic world of misconstrued representations, films like ‘Thithi’ are of utmost importance – what they need are not wonderful reviews by cinephiles, but an audience that appreciates the movie and the makers.