Author – Hrishikesh Somani
India has been on the forefront of ecological damage due to its rising population and rapid industrialization. With increasing environmental problems, there comes a need to address these issues. Serious measures definitely need to be taken to prevent their harmful effects, but these measures can only be taken after raising awareness. Use of social media, print media, films, and documentaries are ways to create awareness in the masses. Among them, film documentaries have been a strong medium for communicating messages on saving the environment, habitats and ecosystems.
Through a series of appalling, heart wrenching narrations and thought provoking sequences, environmental documentaries have been striving to gain people’s attention and turn their thoughts into actions. Film festivals, awards and events are regularly organized to propagate the idea of documenting such situations and making an appealing case. There are a few documentaries that have really created an impact on the raising public awareness in India. Here are some of them:
Shores of Silence – Mike Pandey
I remember seeing Mike Pandey on Doordarshan on TV as a child. Then, I was unaware of the fact that the show’s host was indeed the first Asian director to win the Green Oscars. “Shores of Silence” is probably Mike Pandey’s most celebrated film that even clinched a Wildscreen Panda Award, better known as “Green Oscars”. The film is about the brutal hunting of whale sharks off the coast of Gujarat for commercial purposes.
The gruesome killing shots can leave the viewers aghast and the message hits the audience in a ghastly way. The film won 10 other international awards and makes an absolutely heart wrenching impact on its viewers by showing the plight of those sea creatures. Released in 2000, the film coerced the Indian government to introduce a legislature to ban fishing of whale sharks and protect them as endangered species under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. Mike Pandey has made several films for ecological conservation and has bagged around 300 awards for his efforts to spread awareness about biodiversity conservation.
The Pack – Wild Dog Diaries
Indian Wild Dogs are fascinating creatures to film because of the emotions that their actions show and at the same time their ferocious predatory instincts that appall the viewers. “The Pack”, a 47-minute documentary set in the picturesque forests of Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, focuses on the Indian Wild Dog or ‘Dhole’. Krupakar and Senani have clinched a series of prestigious awards from all over the world for this film. As Shekhar Dattatri, a well known wildlife filmmaker says about this 2011 film, “Wild Dog Diaries belongs to the rarest of rare categories – a true classic.”
These dog packs are always on the move and it is a daunting task to keep track of them to observe their behavior. Notwithstanding these challenges, the Krupakar-Senani duo has shown the world every dark and deep emotion of the Indian wild dogs. Following one particular pack, ‘Krupakar’s Pack’, the documentary gives its viewers plenty of information packed with gripping storytelling. For all wildlife enthusiasts and all documentary filmmakers, this film is an important chapter which exemplifies the beauty produced by perseverance and undeterred determination.
Cherub of the Mist – Bedi Brothers
Ajay & Vijay Bedi are perhaps one of the most renowned documentary filmmakers of India who bring laurels to the nation. The duo, known as the Bedi Brothers, has attained a big name in the field. Produced in 2006, “Cherub of the Mist” is one of their Green Oscar award winning films about the rare species of Red Pandas.
This film was the first ever film to capture so many different aspects of Red Pandas in India, right from courting and mating to nest building. Before the film, as the Bedi Brothers claim, it was thought that Pandas did not exist in India. However, their film shows otherwise, changing a widespread notion. The uniqueness of these animals is that they are less than 1,000 in number, which is much less than the number of snow leopards or big cat tigers.
The Truth About Tigers – Shekhar Dattatri
With Roshan Seth’s impeccable voice over that adds to the literary class of the film, Shekhar Dattatri’s “The Truth About Tigers” is a laudable piece of art. The devout wildlife and conservation filmmaker’s his films have won many national and international accolades. Two years in the making, the film combines stunning footage shot by the world’s leading wildlife experts such as tiger biologist Dr. Ullas Karanth of the Wildlife Conservation Society, and wildlife crime fighter, Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India.
The Truth About Tigers is a reminder of the very few number of tigers that are left in India and the rest of the world, even after being called India’s national animal. The film very precisely answers many questions related to the loss of tiger life and the probable reasons behind it. In the end, there are also points for the common man to save the tiger population. A meritorious film, it successfully invokes the feeling of urgency in the matter of saving tiger population.
To be continued… India’s Best Environmental Documentaries – Part 2