Dithee movie review: The film feels timely, its questions timeless


Dithee movie cast: Kishore Kadam, Mohan Agashe, Amruta Subhash, Girish Kulkarni, Anjali Patil, Dilip Prabhavalkar
Dithee movie director: Sumitra Bhave
Dithee movie rating: 3 stars

A devastated father trying to make sense of the untimely death of his son, is the opening for the many questions that plague us as we go through life, questions about faith and belief, truth and myth, memory and remembrance. ‘Dithee’ which means ‘seeing’, is Sumitra Bhave’s last film (she passed away in April), and is almost like a compendium of the big themes that her films touched upon, especially those that she co-directed with Sunil Sukthankar (‘Vaastupurush’, Doghi’, ‘Astu’, ‘Kaasav’).
Kadam plays Ramji, a skilled cow whisperer who is struggling with the fact of his 30 years of pilgrimage, and the tragedy that has befallen him: how, he cries out, did his beloved Lord Vithal allow this to happen? The son, who was swept away by the swift currents of a river, was young. Ramji is advancing towards old age. His eyes rest upon his grief-struck daughter-in-law (Anjali Patil), and the new born girl in her lap, and he cannot bear it: he wants his son back, not his (the son’s) progeny and equally bereft wife.

The constantly falling rain is both physical and metaphorical, a flowing and cleansing of anger and sadness. Ramji’s old friends and neighbours gather together to comment on the tragedy, the weather, the perilous state of a cow who is about to give birth. The trio (Mohan Agashe, Girish Kulkarni, Dilip Prabhavalkar ) functions almost like a Greek chorus in a tiny Maharashtra village, providing a layer of meaning to the endless cycle of life and death. Agashe delivers a lovely line about the fickleness and porousness of memory, ‘otherwise the grief of a ripped kite from childhood would have affected us for our entire life’.

The parallel that the film draws between the cow’s deliverance of a female calf, and the acceptance of the baby girl is predictable, yet moving. We know that finally it will be Ramji who helps the painfully lowing animal to deliver, and will find deliverance of his own. We also know that Subhash, despite being aware of the pain Ramji is going through, will reach out to him. She, the owner of the cow, knows about empathy, and knows exactly who can help.

Kadam’s portrayal of Ramji, who manages to arrive at a state of acceptance and compassion, is at the heart of ‘Dithee’, which says ‘if the ‘seeing’ is clear, you can see both here and beyond, otherwise it’s all dark everywhere’. Aren’t we all looking for salvation right now? As we grapple with the pandemic, experiencing other peoples’ grief as well as ours, the film feels timely, its questions timeless.

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