In Jabbar Patel’s 1977 Marathi classic Jait Re Jait, Nagya, a member of the tribal caste Thakar has to face dire consequences when he destroys a beehive in his quest for revenge. In Emang Debbarma’s Kokborok short film Haja, a tribal hunter faces similar repercussions when his son falls into the nest of a wasp.
A poacher (Debbarma) takes his son Toreng (Pohar Debbarma) with him to the forests one day, helping him understand wildlife and telling him how to hunt animals. When the boy asks his father if he ever pities the animals he kills, the father’s rebuttal is swift, confident and careless. But he becomes powerless when his son becomes the target of nature’s wrath.
Haja attempts to emphasise the importance of wildlife conservation, but takes a simplistic view on the issue, never delving into the social and economic pressures that may cause the hunter to enter the wild. However, the film resonates with cultural authenticity and nuance, its beauty lying more in the showing of its story than the telling.
Haja is among the 56 films nominated for the 2018 Filmfare Short Film awards.