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Film Review: ‘Thithi’

The death of a century-old patriarch stirs trouble in the small Indian village of "Thithi."

Thithi Movie Review
Courtesy of Prspctvs Productions

The chai cup of village intrigue runneth over in “Thithi,” Raam Reddy’s tale of various ill-advised maneuvering that ensues after the death of a cantankerous 101-year-old patriarch. Even-keeled in execution but highly eventful in content, this clever social satire has accrued numerous prizes on the fest circuit, with specialty release in various markets and formats the next logical step.

Locally famed for his age if nothing else, “Century” Gowda (Singrigowda) causes a stir when he finally drops dead at pic’s start. Most stirred is his eldest grandson Thamanna (Thammegowda S.), who stands to inherit agricultural acres if rival family factions don’t swoop in; least perturbed is his father Gadappa (Channegowda), a scraggly elder notorious for his endless roaming, imbibing and generally uncooperative ways. (Much later we learn the scandalous youthful tragedy that led to this scornful son’s estrangement from all relations, starting with his pa Century.)

Things would be simple if Gadappa signed over the land that’s now legally his to Thamanna. But the old man is too stubborn and contrary to consent. Strapped for cash — even more so after an astrologist informs he must throw a huge “thithi” (funeral) feast to commemorate his freshly departed grandfather — Thamanna begins pondering how he call sell off this property he hasn’t actually inherited yet.

This leads to some bribery, forgery, and other skullduggery, but for the sale to go through he still has to make Gadappa “disappear” long enough to be passed off as dead. He figures he’ll give the coot enough money to realize his dreams of wider-roaming travel for a few months. But waylaid by booze, Gadappa doesn’t make it very far, falling in with a nearby tribe of transient shepherds. Among them is young Cauvery (Pooja S.M.), who has already caught the girl-crazy attentions of his otherwise sullen, idle grandson Abhi (Abhishek H.N.).

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With a few colorful peripheral characters lending additional complications, “Thithi” wends its way pleasantly toward what we rightly guess will be the comical climactic collapse of all well-laid plans. Complexly plot-driven yet never hectic or over-contrived, Reddy and Eregowda’s screenplay treats all its onscreen figures with an amusement that stops short of ridicule, allowing them a certain melancholy dignity as their efforts to improve their lot only make things worse.

While packaging is competently straightforward rather than distinctive, effect could hardly be more flavorful — not least because all roles were apparently cast among non-pro residents of a village in South India’s Karnataka state where co-writer Eregowda was born. For the most part, they’re all such naturals it’s almost hard to believe they came to the project as amateurs.

Film Review: ‘Thithi’

Reviewed at Alamo Drafthouse, San Francisco, April 14, 2016. (In San Francisco International. Also in Locarno, Mumbai, Palm Springs, New Directors/New Films film festivals.) Running time: <strong>123 MIN.</strong>

  • Production: (India—U.S.) A Prspctvs production, in association with Maxmedia. (World sales: Prspctvs, Bangalore.) Produced by Pratap Reddy, Sunmin Park. Executive producer, J. Ethan Park.
  • Crew: Directed by Raam Reddy. Screenplay, Eregowda, Reddy. Camera (color, HD), Doron Tempert; editors, John Zimmerman, Reddy; sound, Nithin Lukose; casting, Eregowda.
  • With: Channegowda, Thammegowda S., Abhishek H.N., Pooja S.M., Singrigowda, Somashekar K.S., Srinivasa. (Kannada dialogue)
  • Music By: