Thithi: An amusing tale of frustrated sons born to the wrong fathers

In Raam Reddy’s Thithi (English: Funeral Ceremony), a son reacts indifferently to the news of his father’s death. His response is most unusual. “No big deal”, he says. As the eldest son, he is supposed to be doing the last rites but he pays no heed to those who are calling him to attend to these matters urgently. He says something to the effect of, “Why would the dead care about rituals?” Actually, he’s got a point. This news is met with zero melodrama by everyone in that village.

The dead man Gowda, nicknamed “Century Gowda” because he was 101 at the time of his passing, was a man of dubious reputation. He has a son named Gadappa who is a grandfather himself – with a son named Thamanna and a grandson Abhi. In the course of the film, we notice that indifference and disrespect seem to be running in the family as Gadappa’s son doesn’t regard him highly either, and Abhi, an adolescent, is beginning to show signs of irresponsible behavior as well.

Someone reminds Thamanna that he should immediately get on the matter of the land his grandfather had owned. When Thamanna asks his father for it, he gets an unexpected “You can have it.” However, there is a small problem: Gadappa won’t go with him to an office to sign any papers. This leaves Thamanna with no other choice but to approach corrupt officials to somehow falsify documents proving that both his grandfather and father are dead. He manages to find a seller who isn’t aware of the fact that Gadappa is still alive.

Thamanna approaches his father with a sufficient amount of money and coaxes him to disappear from the village for at least six months and not make the stupid mistake of showing up before that. Meanwhile, the entire village is gearing up for Century Gowda’s funeral and most of its inhabitants are willing to go, not out of respect for Gowda but because of the meat that is going to be served for lunch. While everyone is busying themselves with the funeral preparations, Abhi has his mind set on a more “urgent” matter: wooing a young girl whom he had just met.

The film, set in a remote village in Karnataka called Nodekopplu, is populated with an assortment of idiosyncratic characters. There are men being unwise and irresponsible, constantly making bad decisions and committing follies which make life complicated for them than it already is. There are few female characters that stand out, for e.g. a fierce money lender who promises to destroy the reputation of anybody who fails to pay her back on time and then there is the wife of a friend of Thamanna’s who seems to be perfectly aware that her husband is a good for nothing clown.

This is a tale that would resonate more with, I imagine, people who were born to the wrong parents. I’ve seen people like these in my own family. These men see their parents as a burden; they curse their circumstances and look for ways to free themselves from their parents’ invisible shackles. Despite the stupidity and recklessness that Thamanna indulges in, you can’t help but feel slightly sympathetic toward him because he has to deal with the consequences of being born to an eccentric father who wanders around aimlessly – and drunk – like a hippie.

But regardless of this, Gadappa is an interesting character, especially when he narrates his past to a group of shepherds. Whether his story is real or imagined cannot be said for sure, but it may offer a clue as to why he behaves in a particular way. Given that all the actors are non-professional (all from Reddy’s village) and given the documentary style filmmaking, fiction becomes nearly indistinguishable from fact. Reddy gives you a tangible sense of a rustic place that looks so alien yet quite familiar, by immersing you in its sights and sounds.

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