Director: Ganesh Shetty
Cast: Babu Shetty, Netravati Shetty
BETE (Hunt) is an 11-minute wordless, but not world-less, short film directed by Ganesh Shetty. The film simply presents its world as is, almost in a docudrama sort of way, as opposed to dramatizing it, in order to drive home the repercussions of its message. This is an interesting choice of narrative language, especially because its ambition is concerned with the politics of sight and sound. BETE shows us a day in the life of a self-sufficient old farmer. He goes about his routine silently, like a well-oiled machine working from one morning to the next. He is one with his fields. His wife brings him lunch. He drinks coconut water. A dog follows him around. He attends a tribal event at night.
A day of this farmer doesn’t matter as much as where it unfurls in context of the day of a farmer in rural Karnataka – a radio informs us that it is an important day in 2016, when the government has legalized the use of local guns for farmers to cull wild boars in the region. These two worlds, of course, aren’t mutually exclusive to one another. They are destined to collide. The domino effect is inevitable. We see it as statistics in newspaper headlines. A law laid down by administrators sitting in high-end offices will acquire the sharpness of nothing less than a gunshot by the time its words are interpreted by the whispers of the hinterlands they are designed for. The calmer the film, the stormier its postlude.
Shetty had previously directed the Tulu-language Paroksh, another authentically located short that, through the tropes of atmospheric horror, examined the bittersweet effects of superstition in rural Karnataka. BETE is far more straight-faced, and sympathetic, in its critique of the culture. It is presented more as a social-message drama than a fictitious ‘take’ on the happenings of a region. We are meant to see what exists, unhindered and pristine, so that we sense what is at stake. This is effective when we see the man in his natural habitat. At times, though, it is too simplistic and on the nose, especially in how the radio news telecast opens the film on a dark screen for a whole 45 seconds. Relying on text (subtitles) without the support of images for so long can feel a bit strange. But the idea eventually gels well with the cinematography – to transport the viewer into the world before it is turned upside down. To see the sights, before it is ruined by a sound.