QUEEN’S ROAD: Film buffs might be waiting to watch the Locarno award-winning film Thithi. However, its makers, though thrilled with the unexpected honour, want to fine tune the film before public screenings.
“Now that it has become famous, we don’t want to just bask in the glory, we want to make it better,” says Raam Reddy, its director and co-writer. From conceptualisation to now, a crew of about 40 has worked on the project for nearly three years.
Reddy intends to fly to Mumbai and work on the post-production some more. “As we see it now, we need to work on the sound and colour.” How long it will take, however, depends on studio availability, he says.
This is the second Indian film to win an award at Locarno, after Pattabhirama Reddy’s Samskara 43 years ago. Both films, interestingly, are about rituals associated with death. While the plot of Samskara revolves around the body of a Brahmin that nobody wants to cremate, Thithi plays out the parallel stories of three generations of a family following the death of their 101-year-old patriarch.
“The death forms the base, but the film is actually about life,” the 25-year-old clarifies. “That’s why we called it Thithi, to break the taboos associated with it.”
And though it deals with a subject as grim as death, the approach is a lighthearted one. “It’s not comedy, but it’s playful,” he told City Express.
Reddy’s friend Ere Gowda, who worked the most on the story, says it evolved almost organically.
“We went to a few villages in Mandya district, where Ere Gowda hails from, wanting only one thing — to tell a story, and tell it honestly,” says Reddy.
As soon as they reached, they came across a group of storytellers. “We found out that they travel around, telling stories where there has been a death,” says the debutant director. The stories are intended to uplift spirits after 11 days of mourning. “So we decided to follow them.”
As the two friends’ stay lengthened, Thithi became a recurring theme and the story began writing itself.
“I had often noticed that death in the family saddens people, but they are not crying, grieving outwardly,” says Gowda, who says he feels like he has grown up knowing the characters that have found their way into the script. In fact, one of them is inspired by his uncle and all three main characters, Gattappa, Abhi and Tammanna, are what these first-time actors are called by friends and family.
As part of the effort to keep the film sincere and realistic, the duo scouted towns and villages across the state for non-professional actors. “The casting took eight months,” says Gowda. “I’ve driven from Mandya to Kalaburagi to Hubbali looking for people.”
And the director capitalised on the relationship he and his team forged with them. “We wanted to remove the veil of the camera,” Reddy says. “If we’d put them through a workshop, they would have lost that quality.”
These two debutants, one who pursued direction at Prague School of Film after graduating in Economics from St Stephen’s and the other who has trusted in his friend’s world cinema influences, describe themselves as ‘boys who experimented and it clicked’.
“We knew what we wanted but not how to get there. And until we reached, we just kept trying,” Reddy says, explaining the months of effort. “I think it has a universal appeal, but that’s for the audience to decide once they watch it.”
Reddy also roped in a couple of his other friends for the project — his classmate from film school, the Dutch Doron Tempert, as the director of photography and US-based John Zimmerman for editing. The film, which has been produced by Prspctvs, started by Reddy and his father Pratap Reddy.
Though they haven’t yet thought about what’s coming next, they are confident that every village, household and person has a story that could be made into a film.