Screening a slice of life

Screening a slice of life
Raam Reddy, the new-age filmmaker in the Kannada film industry, seems to have understood the entire mechanics behind this medium of storytelling.

Artfully arranged in all its specificities and dimensions, his movie ‘Thithi’, which was recently screened at the eight edition of the Bengaluru International Film Festival, revolves around a fast-paced, racy plot and yet stays true to an artistic narrative.

Gurgling in the clarity of theme, rampant with rhythm that is held tightly throughout the film, it is a Kannada comedy which is set in the village of Mandya. It tells the story of how three generations of a family react to the death of Century Gowda, the protagonist, who dies at the age of 101. Warm in its treatment and lively in approach, the three stories intertwine before converging at Century Gowda’s ‘thithi’, the final funeral celebration 11 days after a death.

While talking to the City-boy about journeying back to the grassroot level to showcase a rustic context on the big screen, one gets to know how much he has learnt from scratch.

The articulate director says it’s difficult for him to quantify how much he has evolved throughout the process. “I made my mistakes and was allowed to make them in the beginning. I just got better and better at filmmaking as I kept figuring everything out on the job.” Co-written with Ere Gowda who is from the village where the film was shot, Raam recalls how they worked to bring out the perspective of an insider and an outsider for the narrative, within the larger superstructure of death.

He adds, “The script organically evolved and slowly connected to the village. We worked backwards. We cast actors and then wrote the script. This way, actors could relate to their characters more. The camera moved where they moved and the film was built around that performance. Along the way, we also collected micro-narratives and pieced them together. Death automatically fell into place and became the larger superstructure, which eventually happened to be a slice of life.”

It was a conscious decision for him to work with non-professional actors, as he had a certain flexibility with them, on and off the set. Delicately dealt with, the plot radiates meaning, discreet sensibility and subtle humour despite venturing into the touchy topic of death. Raam says, “The fact that the protagonist lived till the age of 101 itself brought in an aspect of humour. That’s a long way to go and there is already a sense of achievement. I also believe that death needn’t be mourned a certain way and can be looked at with a slightly celebratory angle too, and that is what we tried to portray in the film.”

However, it’s not only on screen where his talents dwell. The self-published novelist was also into photography and poetry while pursuing Economics at St Stephen’s College. The stable state of mind that poetry connected him to and the micro-stories that photographs told him, within a larger framework, crystallised into his love for making films. “I found film to be a medium where all genres of art is encouraged. It allowed me to keep all mediums together.”

And what does he think of the digital age that we are diving into, where piracy has taken root and is changing the undercurrent of cinema? He says, “The entire economics of the film industry is changing. It’s nice to see production houses backing content-driven films and movies like ‘Court’ and ‘Masaan’ have paved the way. They are narrative oriented, strong in form and diverse in context. I wish a movement starts where art and commercial cinema run parallelly. Of course, films are an escape route from reality but at the same time, enriching subjects have to be encouraged.”
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