Every so often, a rarer find now in these potboiler times, a film comes along that instead of transporting you to an imaginary world transfixes you in the forgotten magic of your own. Thithi is one such film.
When Century Gowda, the bawdy centenarian of a small village passes away, his son Gadappa, a senile gypsy of sorts with no interest in land or wealth, grandson Thamanna, a man caught in the throes of family life, and his great-grandson, Abhi, a hormonal teen on the cusp of manhood react to his death in their own ways.
Gadappa(ChenneGowda) chooses to roam the barren landscape, play board games with the children of the village. Abhi (Abhishek Gowda) contests for the affections of a nomadic sheperd belle (Pooja S.M) passing through their village while Century’s grandson Thamanna (Thammegowda) is keen on procuring the familial land for himself. The eleven days spent in the preparation of the funeral form the rest of the narrative. Drawn to the family inheritance Thamanna begins to focus his attention on getting his nomadic father to sign over their five acres to his name. Gadappa, dispassionate to worldly concerns spurns him forcing him to seek out nefarious means to procure the land.
Wonderfully simple in its script and equally complex in its execution, Thithi is not a film, it is life. Several times during the film I found myself going back to Pather Panchali. There are multiple parallels between Raam reddy debut film and Ray’s masterpiece. The simple village scenes are lovingly framed by all within them; the spokes of cart wheels, the acres of land broken only by figures of farmers toiling under bowing palm tree are all windows into this world. The multiple shots of barren lands with tracks cutting through are parallel to the shots of the train in Pather Panchali, in the latter the fields were lush, laden with crop and the train brought a world of development and globalisation, full of promise. In the former, the fields are barren, the tracks empty, the promises unfulfilled; the people forgotten though are the same. The only vestige of modernity cutting through these worlds is the mobile phone. Omnipresent it shines, beeps and vibrates in a world left behind, forgotten. Thithi like Pather Panchali is an ode to both life and to poverty. It holds up a mirror to a society that has come so far and yet stays rooted in its rituals, its poverty and its desire for more.
Starring mostly non-actors and set in a small village in Mandya, Thithi tells the story of three protagonists, three generations, three Indias. The ghost of India Past, Gadappa – Full of stories with no strappings of wealth or chattels; Ghost of India present, Thamanna – Burdened by a need and desire for more, weighed down by desire dreams and hopes and The Ghost of India Future, Abhi – Indifferent, existential and forever on the go.
A few mentions of the best amidst this array of delights; Chennegowda as Gaddappa is a wonder to watch, with a beguiling smile, in a single frame, a single look he convinces you of a back story, a path to how he got here. Thammegowda is terrific as the flawed human, consumed by desire, a need for more, we relate to all of him, he is our insecurities, our fear of failure.
Pooja S. M shines in her short role as the feisty gypsy girl, Cauvery. Her scene with Abhi (Abhishek Gowda) towards the end of the film is a revelation. She proves in a few short minutes that strength of opinion and independence is not a forgotten right in the rural space. A women’s strength and choice is not restricted by education, status, or wealth, it is beyond material domain.
The performances are real, that is probably no surprise as the characters were plucked from within the village itself and the story was weaved to fit around them. The story reminds one of simpler times, of bedtime stories crayoned in the mind’s eye while lying lost in a grandmother’s lap. The music is subtle, yet memorable; everything, everything about the film is sublime. Sometimes the right script finds the right director, the right cast and the right team, together they pull off a masterpiece. Thithi is one such masterpiece.
It does not deserve to be graded by stars or boxes of popcorn; it is beyond them, it is beyond film. Watch it if you are human, watch it if you aren’t but want to be.