In Raam Reddy’s Thithi, a well-planned funeral goes so awry, it might even result in the collapse of the dead man’s family. But there isn’t a moment of gloom in this ruthlessly funny village saga, which sets the characters loose in a remote Kannada village, and steps aside to watch the humour of life unfold.
Narrating the tale of four generations of a family, Thithi weaves a tapestry that brilliantly brings alive the social and cultural nuances of the Indian countryside. It is a dark and witty comedy, with first-time actors, picked from the same village the film is shot in (Which also happens to be the native village of the film’s writer, Ere Gowda)
The village is called Nodekoplu. Its oldest patriarch, a cranky and garrulous old man, fondly addressed as Century Gowda, suddenly drops dead. Much to the dismay of Gowda’s grandson Thammanna (Thamme Gowda), who is also the family’s cash-strapped breadwinner, the villagers decide to bid him a grand farewell. His sole ray of hope is his grandfather’s five acre land, which he plans to sell before his relatives can interfere. But, it is no easy task. His father, Gaddappa Gowda (Channe Gowda), who has inherited the land, is a drifter who detests societal norms. While the villagers prepare the funeral feast, Thammanna makes a clandestine deal to sell the land, forging papers and making a pact with his ever-elusive father.
Raam Reddy’s film is steeped in the ordinariness of village life. It unfolds without melodrama or a background score, and yet, one hardly notices their absence. It’s as if silence is just another character in Thithi. Also striking is its rawness. The funeral procession of ‘Century Gowda’ is a hilarious sight. Band members clumsily play a tune on their old, rusty instruments; a drunk old man dances ahead of the procession with abandon; men and women wait impatiently for the rituals to finish, so they can enjoy the mutton.
Gaddappa (loosely translated: Beard Man), is a kind old man with no interest in wealth. He could be Thithi‘s Siddhartha: the spiritual foil to the village’s materialistic outlook.
Thithi‘s portrayal of Gaddappa is a rare cinematic feat. Not often do we see on screen characters as well-delineated and layered as this one. The scene where Gaddappa narrates his life story to his newly-found nomadic friends is pure gold. “I don’t know if this is really something that happened in the past, or just a dream that I saw last night,” he concludes the stirring story like a magician ending a performance, and it’s not easy for the audience to shake off the chills.
Thithi is calmer than Emir Kusturica’s Life Is A Miracle, a chaotic village ballad, high on absurd comedy. Nor is its heart in the grave, like Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Rat Trap. But these films share a chromosome. Even as they celebrate the delights of the laid-back country life, they don’t desist from exposing its ugly realities.
Nodekoplu is male territory. Moral codes and trust are often breached secretly by men. It doesn’t take a lot for gossip to get around the village. Caste and superstition are part of routine life.
Youngsters, uneducated and clueless about the future, are lured in by easy money, and consumed by debauchery. Century Gowda’s great grandson, Abhi, has no interest in farming, the family’s traditional profession. While his father is fixated on the land deal, Abhi’s (Abhishek SN) focus is on a young shepherdess (Pooja S.M), who yields to his solicitations. Nor does the film hide their guilty pleasures.
In Thithi, the countryside isn’t a pastoral place one retreats to. It is worldly, through and through.
In spite of its refusal to be fast-paced or slick, Thithi is an eminently enjoyable watch. It roams around the Kannada village like a bird, with free-spirit as its motto. It laughs at the dark and vile side of human beings, and finds humour in ordinary situations.
The Thithi review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.