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Thithi Movie Review: A Ground-Breaking, Rule-Bending Slice Of Savage Life Masterpiece!

Subhash K . Jha

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Raam Reddy’s Thithi

Thithi  Is A Ground-Breaking, Rule-Bending Slice Of Savage Life Masterpiece

Thithi(Kannada)

Starring: real people

Directed by Raam Reddy

There are no actors , at least none that I could catch acting, in debutant director Raam Reddy’s Thithi, that 13th day feast after a death in the family when relatives friends and strangers are fed to burp so that the dead one’s soul departs peacefully.

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And never mind the family of the deceased whose soul is sometimes sold off to collect funds for the 13th day binge.

In the way non-actors “play” characters in Thithi the film comes closest to Mahesh Tamhane’s Marathi film Courtlast year. Coincidentally that film too had a wizened nomadic non-conformist man at its helm . The greying bearded man in  Thithi is Gadappa(Chanegowda) whose restless wanderings across the impoverished village in Karnatakagives to this bare austere and unassuming film a sense of imminent  intangibility.

Permanence, says Gadappa’s attitude without actually stating it,is a futile pursuit. Gadappa’s sonThamanna(Thammegodwa) wants the ancestral land to tide him over his financial hardships even it means killing off his father, on paper at least.

There are many moments in the visuals that capture the underbelly of  the heartland with an complete absence of pride or prejudice.Men who feel a nirvanic ecstasy at the thought of a non-vegetarian meal, women who cook for and bully their husbands as a part of a day’s work, and youngsters who cut down wood and wade into ravines to supplement the family’s meager income.

This is not the brand of poverty Bollywood is comfortable with.

The quirky plot is unparalleled by anything we’ve seen so far in Indian cinema of any genre or language. DirectorRaam Reddy is remarkably dispassionate  in his pursuit of  the essence of existence in a plot that scoffs at all attempts to find a moral centre. While the great-grandfather dies at 100(hence named Century Gowda in the village that never seems short of excitement even without the invasion of the internet) the grandfather  Gadappa wishes torenunciate all family obligations to live the life of a gypsy while his son Thamanna pursues the family’s property with life-sustaining urgency. As for the youngest scion of the family Abhi he is so horny he can’t think straight  and spends his time stalking a shepherd girl Kaveri .

They do f..k at the end , before life fucks them over.

As I read the above plotline I find the description to be most unsuitable to describe what really happens in Thithi as the male members of one impoverish rural family in a village of Karnataka uncovers their innermost cravings from greed to lust in  a thrust of fate that moves calmly across  the film’s craggy skyline in a ziz-zag of unvarnished emotions, too  deep for hysteria or melodrama but never too sacred for savage satire.

Death is treated as  a kind of running  gag in the raw storytelling. The first 10 minutes shows the leery uncouth great-grandfather taunting and heckling every passerby before dropping dead. No one is sorry to see this man go after he has clearly overstayed his welcome. What follows can be termed as a funereal farce or a cremation comedy of errors where the desperation of poverty eventuates in a bankruptcy of grace in dealing with bereavement.

These are people who don’t care  if people are looking while they sort out their insurmountable problems. The camera never lies in preparation for an emotional ambush.Cinematographer Doron Tempert  is happy to look at the unsophisticated characters with a complete absence of fuss and finesse. Thithi is a pithy and pungent satire on the premium we place on human life when it is besieged by poverty.

Miraculously director Raam Reddy weaves a love story between a porn-addicted village boy and a remarkably unspoilt gypsy girl into his brew of bizarre bereavement.These are people who will find their pleasures even as life pulls them down to the ground and crushes their desires.

I don’t know how the director has done what he has done in Thithi: you know, make a film that doesn’t look sound or smell like a film. But Raam Reddy has done it. And we can only bow our heads in reverence .

Every year there is one outstanding non-Bollywood film that throws forward a socio- cultural dilemma in a style so direct and blunt that it doesn’t feel like cinema.Thithi is that rare achievement of 2016.It is so real,it is unreal!

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