Who can escape fate? And even if one tried, does fate not always catch up in the end? The inter-generational wheel of life is what concerns Raam Reddy's debut feature, Thithi. It's a family's karmic wheel.
Structured as a modernist fable, Thithi is so obsessed with the present generation that Gowda, the century-old great-grandfather, is killed off within minutes of the opening, setting the stage for a thithi, an anniversary ceremony that the eldest son traditionally celebrates for his father's death.
That burden falls on Gadappa, who spends his time as a wandering bohemian. However, it's his son, Thamanna, who wants to celebrate the Thithi, as he wants to quickly sell off his grandfather's land. To do that, he has to prove that his father, Gadappa, has also died and that he is therefore the rightful heir to the land.
Gadappa's carefree ways allows Thamanna to do that. He is willing to "disappear" for his son's sake, so he chooses to follow an itinerant group of shepherds. Thamanna's son, Abdi, becomes part of the mix when he falls for a sexy shepherdess and woos her to sleep with him.
During the time when Gadappa wanders with the group, we learn why he has forsaken his family. His late father, Gowda, had sexual relations with his young wife while Gadappa was out in the fields. In four generations, we find fathers and sons always taking what is not theirs. In an early scene when we first encounter Gadappa, he is seen dipping his hand into Thamanna's pocket to steal some money. In the same way, Abdi takes the money for the Thithi ritual for a gambling binge.
Reddy's direction deftly interweaves the ensemble plot lines while maintaining a brisk comedic rhythm. In a certain way, Reddy isn't really concerned about the Thithi tradition. It is merely a plot device on which the multi-narratives pivot on. While a senior generation director would likely expound on the tradition, the comedy and irony are instead foregrounded here. That "lack" of tradition is perhaps reflected in the film's co-production origins. However, having said this, Thithi has definitely announced a brand-new talent in the landscape of South-Indian Kannada language cinema. And his name is Raam Reddy.
- by Philip Cheah