‘Our Planet’ shows ghastly results of climate change

Sandesh Kadur, who worked on the Netflix series which shows wildlife struggling to adapt in highrisk habitats, says patience is key while filming animals

The tall elephant grass at Kaziranga National Park dwarfs some of the largest mammals on the planet.

A wildlife-based documentary series usually involves a typical format — stunning, but cliched, videos highlighting the natural beauty of the earth and an impassioned plea to stop their destruction before its too late.

This is where ‘Our Planet’ is different. The eight-part original documentary series lands you a blow in the stomach with its visuals of walruses flinging themselves to death off steep cliffs due to lack of space and an orangutan trying to stop a bulldozer from razing its home, along with other visuals of the mass murder of our flora and fauna that we humans have been perpetrating for years now.

However, the series from Netflix—created in collaboration with Silverback Productions and WWF and voiced by Sir David Attenborough — also features success stories from the natural world and uses the combination of grisly and  jaw-dropping images of incredible species, shot on 4K digital videos, to drive home a message of individual culpability and personal responsibility. The project was filmed in 50 countries all over the world, taking in every continent, and took almost four years to make.

Bengaluru-based National Geographic explorer, wildlife filmmaker and conservation photographer Sandesh Kadur was part of the team that worked on the mega project. He helped in filming two big sequences in Kaziranga and Annamalai Tiger Reserve. Metrolife finds out more...

What was your role in the series ‘Our Planet’?

Broadly, we as a company, Felis, worked closely with the ‘Our Planet’ team to secure filming permissions and finding locations to film.

My job as a cameraman on the episode ‘Forests’ was to find a suitable story — something unique that no one has ever seen or been filmed before. We chose to film the Great Hornbill, this magnificent seed disperser from the Western Ghats. One of their little understood actions, a  casque-butting fight in mid-air (birds striking each other in flight), is what we chose to show.

How did you decide what to shoot?

An avid photographer, Nachappa Aramanamada, brought these hornbills to my attention a few years ago. He showed me an image he had captured of the amazing casque-butting; I showed that image to Jeff Wilson, who is the series producer and a bird-lover. We then decided to go with this story.

What are the major challenges in doing a wildlife picture/video shoot?

The unpredictable weather proved to be our biggest challenge. Changing weather patterns make predicting the behaviour of animals very tricky.
We had almost given up on this sequence after waiting for a long time. Just as we were getting ready to wind up, the weather changed, the sun came up and the hornbills decided to perform in big numbers.

How is this series different from the many wildlife-based ones that have been aired before?

The message of conservation is built into the series; even if it’s not shown all the time, it is focused on and highlighted all the time.

There is apartnership with conservation NGO World Wildlife Fund, and the audience is directed to the www.ourplanet.com website to know how they can help. Thus everyone can do their bit.

A message for your viewers…

Take your time, watch the series on Netflix, go to the website and understand the fragility and resilience of nature around us. As Attenborough said in his opening speech for the documentary, “Nature once determined how we survive. Now we determine how nature survives.”

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