"Bettada Jeeva" is based on Jnanpith awardee K. Shivaram Karanth's novel, which was considered a literary classic. The novel, which became a byword for a wonderful portrayal of the life of people living in the Western Ghats, was written more than seven decades ago, but its content still looks contemporary, especially at a time when the government of Karnataka is opposing UNESCO's desire to classify the Western Ghats a world heritage centre.
"Bettada Jeeva" has been able to capture the life in the hills of Western Ghats and even won the national award for the best environmental film.
The film's director P. Sheshadri, who focuses on making films on issues concerning people, has presented the film with lot of sincerity and commitment. He has been greatly helped by the technical team comprising of cameraman Ananth Urs who has been able to capture the richness of Western Ghats, which have remained partly virgin despite strong attempts by the state and people to plunder its assets.
Like in Karanth's novel, Sheshadri has been able to create awareness about the strength of the Ghats and how they can be saved by being part of it's natural resources.
Sheshadri has not spent a huge budget on making the film, but yet the canvas appears big thanks to the huge lush green forests. In a way, the novel as much as the film is an answer to how these deep rain-forests can be saved without being exploited.
The film is a must watch for all the environmentally conscious personalities and other groups who are just offering sympathies about saving the rain forests and doing practically nothing in action.
An aged couple - Gopalaiah (Dattanna) and his wife Shankari (Rameshwari Verma) - lives in a forest which is close to the mountains. They own a piece of land where they are seriously involved in agriculture. Despite the anxiety about their son who has been missing for a long time, the couple shows a zest for life in the forest where civilization and modern living is just a dream. In comes a fugitive named Shivaramayya (Suchendra Prasad), a freedom fighter who wants to take refuge in their house.
Though his intention is to stay for a day, Shivaramayya is overwhelmed by the way the couple treats a guest.
The encounter between the couple and the stranger provides enriching experience to all of them. Shivaramayya is baffled to know that the couple despite being worried about their lost son and being lonely in the forest have never lost interest in life. He is clearly bowled over by the philosophical outlook of the couple.
Both actors Daththathreya and Rameshwari Varma have done their best. Suchayeendra Prasa often sounds bookish in his dialogue delivery, but he is perfect as an emotional actor.
V. Manohar has provided a perfect background score for the film.
"Bettada Jeeva" portrays the challenging and often beautiful life in the remote corners of the Western Ghats. It is certainly the best environmental film that has come in recent times and worthy of a national award.
Critic: V.S. Rajapur
(4 / 5) : Very Good