In a high-powered film festival that boasted of award-winning movies from around the world, a debut film by a local lad created mega waves at the Bengaluru International Film Festival.
In a high-powered film festival that boasted of award-winning movies from around the world, a debut film by a local lad created mega waves at the Bengaluru International Film Festival. It’s not every day that the first film of a 26-year-old filmmaker is selected as the Opening Movie at a big film festival. But Raam Reddy’s Thithi has won laurels at every film festival it’s been screened in — from the prestigious Locarno Festival in Switzerland to the Mumbai, Pune, and Bengaluru festivals, in India.
Shot in a small village, the film centers around a range of unique and arresting characters, who are all real-life inhabitants of the village, leading to highly-authentic performances from a non-professional cast. That, together with easy script, wry humour, brilliant sound-design, impeccable cinematography, leads to a rare and riveting movie that augurs well for Indian cinema. Most impressive was the fact that the whole team was in their 20s. Excerpts from a conversation with the young director are as follows:
How did this unique story come about What came even before the story, was the culture, atmosphere, people of the village of Nodekoppalu — a small, vibrant village, on the Karnataka-Andhra Pradesh highway. My co-writer Eregowda, who I’ve known since the sixth grade, belongs to this village, and that’s why we even used the local dialect. I always dreamt of making my first film with a non-professional cast, using an air of authenticity, and a story that represents many generations.
In Thithi, the three main characters represent three generations, and we casted the characters even before writing the story!
Your characters are arresting, including the women. Was it easy acting with non-professionals The people of the village were unique, especially the three male leads, and we did a lot of casting along the way, sometimes even on the day of the shooting! It was a different challenge acting with non-professionals, but we were keen to keep the freshness of non-acting. The most important thing was understanding their personal psychologies. The women in the film are strong, because I come from a family of strong women! I’ve always also rebelled against the stereotyped image of women in rural settings.
How long did the shooting take We took three months to explore the area, meet people, catalogue their experiences. It was after all that, that we did much brain-storming, and proceeded to write the script... It took us another five months to shoot the movie. Our team was between ten to thirty people.
Any good, bad experiences Many good ones. The bad ones were mostly because we were shooting near the Bangalore-Mysore railway track, and after about seven takes, a noisy train used to pass by, and we had to do all of it again!
But your sound design was excellent. I’ve always been interested in sound design. Our sound designer was from FTI, and we took nearly six months to sync the sounds. Since there was no other music in the film, it was very important to make the sound immersive to the story. We used different bird sounds for different characters instead of music.
Tell us about your team. We were all in our twenties. Our sound designer was a graduate from FTI. Our DOP was from from Holland, who I studied with at the Prague Film School. He was more a storyteller than a DOP. Our editor was from the US. This was the first film for all of us! The wry humour is one of the highlights of the film. I wanted to make an entertaining film, without it being a comedy. We were keen to make a warm film which had both vitality and energy as the village had plenty of both.
The film seems to have gone to many foreign film festivals Yes, it’s been to various festivals, and I’m proud to say that it has won an award at every festival it’s been to! Among the foreign film festivals, were Locarno, Palm Springs, Marrakech, Dubai.
What was the feedback from Indian audiences It’s been so good, and I’m so overwhelmed!
Your future plans I’m happy that I’ve found two local distributors, and the film will be publicly released in March-April.