Bettada Jeeva

Humanity dwarfs other considerations

Always for you: Rameshwari Varma and Dattatreya in Bettada Jeeva

Does a story, set in the pre-Independence era, about a lonely couple, racked with grief, guilt and loneliness in a remote hill area resonate in today’s time-for-nothing society?
This film does, bringing with it a fresh whiff of nostalgia when times were uncomplicated, yet made complex by the intense conflict within human minds... Some of the concepts may however remain alien to the youth now.

Bettada Jeeva, the director’s brave adaptation of Dr Shivarama Karanth’s much discussed novel by the same name, goes beyond the national award. Perhaps the jury focused on the ‘message’ of conservation - Shivaramu stopping Gopalaiah from shooting the tiger and years later, trying to find the old couple amidst a metamorphosed temple town that has lost its woods to development.

Sheshadri’s screenplay veers a little from the novel, but there is little to complain. Anant Urs’ dedication colours each frame; together with excellent sound design the landscape of Kukke provides the perfect setting for this story on ever-changing interpretations of human relations.  

Sheshadri’s cast is strong. Unlike Karanth’s novel, all characters leave their mark - be it Dera, Narayana, his wife or the old couple - Gopalaiah and Shankari.

Rameshwari Varma as Shankari dwarfs Dattanna’s Gopalaiah, Suchendra Prasad’s Shivaramu and others. Her raw grief, her quiet and total acceptance of things beyond her ken and her eternal optimism all hark back to an era where values were treasured and where time was utilised in introspection and self-improvement, perhaps lost forever today.

Gopalaiah as a man full of life but a strong father who is unwilling to condone his son’s rebellion till the end is endearing. Suchendra Prasad for once plays second fiddle to the veterans. Gopalakrishna Pai’s dialogues, Manohar’s enchanting music and adequate editing by B S Kemparaju make Bettada Jeeva a compact, yet moving experience.
Natural subtlety is the name of the game here. Bettada Jeeva offers complete enjoyment to those who have the time and temperament. Any takers?

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