By Srikanth Kanchinadham. Posted on May 03, 2016
Thithi is a film we've long been talking about. The film is finally set to release later this week in Karnataka & hopefully pretty soon, in the rest of the country. Depicting the fluid aspects of life and death, the film burst into spotlight by winning the Best First Feature and the Golden Leopard awards at the Locarno International Film Festival.
Director Raam Reddy's debut feature has since won awards & acclaim at a plethora of festivals including at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, Mumbai Film Festival, Pune International Film Festival & the Bengaluru International Film Festival before going on to win the National Award for the Best Kannada Film this year.
With non-professional actors in lead roles, the film has a startling authenticity and paints an intriguing and realistic picture of rural Karnataka.
The film broke a lot of conventions filmmakers employ in their films. A common notion in the west is– 'If it is not on the page, it cannot be on the stage'; Thithi broke the convention by first locking up on the locations, then the characters and finally the story. While many might argue about following the structure, Raam Reddy’s Thithi shows us what filmmaking is in the truest sense.
In this journey, if there was someone who was associated with the film since its genesis, it was Ere Gowda, the writer, assistant director, casting director and production assistant for the film. His story is as impressive as the festival journey chartered by the film he wrote.
When Ere Gowda was 18, he came to Bengaluru for work, ending up in the office of Reddy’s father as a security personnel. He used to live in the office and struck up an unlikely friendship with the young Raam. They were friends, playing cricket and basketball together, much before they became filmmakers and collaborators.
He soon out grew the security job, and in a bid to grow his career he decided to quit. But when Raam put his foot down, he was offered a job with Raam’s mother, Anitha Reddy, a well-known social activist. Thus began the next & most interesting part of his life.
Starting as an office boy, he learnt to operate computers on his own, tinkering on them once everyone left office. He learnt driving and started driving Raam's mother around on her trips across the south of India.
It was in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami that Ere Gowda had his first encounter with the camera. During his travels with Raam's mother, he always carried a camera, which he learnt to operate and started using eventually, to document her work. He learnt to edit using free softwares and tutorials available online and slowly but steadily gained proficiency in it.
Reddy came back from Delhi after doing a course in Economics and told him about his desire to make a short film. Both of them went to a small area in Bengaluru, where Reddy used to teach tabla and Ika happened there. The short film went to several international festivals and won some awards too, encouraging Reddy to study more about films which he eventually did at the Prague Film School. But before going to Prague, he and Ere Gowda went to the latter's village and it was during this trip that Reddy decided to make a film set in that village.
Ere Gowda spent the next few years finding characters and plot points for their film. During the course of his search, he came across Gadappa, Thamanna and Abhi, the 3 characters around whom Thithi revolves.
While Gadappa is Ere Gowda’s uncle, he found Thamanna and Abhi quite by chance during the innumerable trips to his village.
They had 3 interesting characters, but still lacked a story. It was during a trip to Mandya for his cousin’s wedding, that he came across an old man who was over hundred years' old and that formed the premise for Century Gowda’s character. Ere Gowda used insights from his time in the village and wove a simple tale around an old man of 100 years and his death. His familiarity with the place and its people ensured that he had complete grasp of how they would behave and react in different situations.
Since the cast was drawn primarily from his village, they had to adjust the shoot according to the villagers' schedule. The whole crew worked like a family, with everyone taking care of each other’s well-being.
If Reddy is the brain behind the film, then Gowda is the heart of the film. The duo has crafted a delightful film that has wowed audiences globally. The film is finally set to release in India, first in Karnataka & hopefully soon in the rest of the country, and the true test of the film probably lies in how the audience on its hometurf reacts to the film.
But whatever maybe their reaction, Ere Gowda has proven one thing. If you set your mind to something, you can achieve anything, however improbable it may seem at first. His is a fairy tale, one that should inspire everyone out there.