While Bollywood star Aamir Khan has called critically acclaimed Kannada film Thithi a must-watch, king of neo-noir Anurag Kashyap has admitted to watching it for the fourth time, and finding it funnier than before. “I seriously envy this Raam Reddy, how do you make non-actors act so well?” he said.
The film, which has bagged honours in international film festivals, as well as the National and Karnataka state awards, hit screens across the country on June 3. Thithi—a reference to the 12th-day ceremony after a death—is about how three generations of a family deal with the passing on of their 100-year-old patriarch Century Gowda.
“The film isn’t a comedy, but a playful take on the situation; it’s also at the same time realistic and sincere,” says Reddy, who co-wrote the script with Ere Gowda, a former security guard at his house with whom he struck a strong friendship. “I travelled across the state, looking for people who would suit our characters,” says Gowda.
The duo opted to go with non-actors to lend to the script spontaneity. “I would have to alter dialogues for some because they couldn’t remember what I’d originally given them,” says Gowda, who got the state award for best dialogue. Pooja, part of the cast, was honoured with the best supporting actor award, and the banner Prspctvs Productions, started by Reddy and his father, won the first best film award.
Reddy’s directorial is the second Indian film to be feted at Locarno, a good 43 years after Pattabhiraman Reddy’s Samskara, based on late Jnanpeeth awardee U R Ananthamurthy’s novel of the same title. After Locarno, when the film fraternity in Bengaluru demanded when they could watch Thithi, Reddy and Gowda said they had some fine-tuning to do.
“From then to now, it has been a great journey,” says Reddy. “We wanted to tell a story and tell it well, and that such a wide range of jury and audiences have appreciated it only goes to show that it has worked.”
The story evolved when the duo went to Nodegopplu, a village in Mandya district Gowda hails from. There, they came across a group of storytellers.
“We found out that they travel around, telling stories where there has been a death,” says the director. The stories are intended to uplift spirits after 11 days of mourning. “So we decided to follow them,” he adds. The folk artistes make an appearance in the final few minutes of the film.
A Prague School of Film graduate, Reddy also roped in some other friends for the project—his classmate from the Dutch Doron Tempert, as the director of photography, and US-based John Zimmerman for editing.
The duo is planning for an international release, followed by an online one.