When I was 11 years old, my great grandmother, 96, passed away. What followed was not mourning but celebrations. She had lived long enough for her death to be celebrated. A joint family of over 30-35 people in a middle-class house soon gathered in the great granny’s room to plan the rituals. While some of them were making sure that the age-old rituals were followed to the T, some hurriedly ran to look for the keys to her aluminum trunks in which she had kept her jewellery and the important property papers. Amidst making sure that the rituals are followed and checking and re-checking whatever the old woman had left behind, what followed in the crammed room was chaos.
First-time director Raam Reddy’s Thithi in Kannada with English subtitles transported me to my childhood. Long after the old woman passed away, the favourite conversation topic of a few male members of the family used to be around property inheritance. As a kid, I often wondered if anyone cared that she is no longer among us. But that’s how life is, mostly. Reddy, 26, portrays just that with his outrageously real, yet funny 120-minute film that has already won enough accolades in the festival circuit.
Written by Ere Gowda along with Reddy, the film opens in a remote village in Karnataka with an old man, Century Gowda, sitting in an open courtyard in the village and shouting (at nobody in particular). Soon after, he gets up, walks a little and sits down to pee and dies on the street. Once the word spreads, it’s not mourning but preparations for a grand funeral procession that begins. However, the family and the villagers are yet to realise that Century Gowda’s eldest son, Gadappa (the bearded man) has to be found to complete the last rites.
Gadappa is a delirious, old, bearded man, famous for his endless wandering through the village. He is least concerned about what is happening around him. It’s much later in the film that the reason for his indifferent attitude is revealed. His son Thammana, though, is nothing close to Gadappa. Thammana’s biggest concern is to inherit Century Gowda’s property which is in his father’s name. And to make sure he gets it, he is not only ready to complete all the rituals but also agrees when the priest says that his 101-year-old grandfather’s death should be celebrated with a big feast for 500 people from neighbouring villages on the eleventh day, that is, thithi of his death.
To throw a big feast and to make sure that the property doesn’t go to any of the other family members, Thammana turns devious. A little forgery and deceit comes into the picture when Gadappa refuses to go for any official work anywhere pertaining to the land. The man, hooked on to ‘Tiger Brandy’, asks his son to wait till his death to inherit the property. But Thammana is determined to have the acres of land in his name at the earliest even if he has to borrow a huge sum from a local woman running a watering hole. He also approaches an official to forge his father’s death certificate and convinces his wanderer father to go for a longer wandering—long enough that he is taken for dead. Though Gadappa leaves for the trip, the urge to have Tiger Brandy doesn’t take him too far and he ends up with a moving tribe of shepherds in a nearby village.
The depiction of the third generation with Thamanna’s son, Abhishek, is even more real. Like most of the youngsters today, Abhishek is wayward and playful. The recklessness of the youth is shown through his ways of handling things. While he is drunk, he loses the money for the thithi feast in a game of cards with his friends. He falls for a young shepherdess, Cauvery, from the same tribe his grandfather has taken refuge with. He tries hard to woo her and even succeeds.
The film, if not best in its execution, is interesting enough to keep you entertained throughout. The add-on is the music, played by a local band in the village at Century Gowda’s funeral. The simplicity in telling the story with a group of non-actors (real villagers) and yet bring out humour in almost every situation, is something that stands out. The best part about the film is that it isn’t preachy. It is not saying that this is right and that is wrong. The writers give each of the characters enough reason to stick to their own ground, which is what happens in real life and that’s the beauty of the film.
Director: Raam Reddy
Cast: Thammegowda S., Channegowda, Abhishek H.N., Pooja S.M.