With corporate cash, B’luru filmmakers aim high

A new documentary on Karnataka’s wilderness by Bengaluru-based nature filmmakers and conservationists aspires to showcase the state’s rich biodiversity while showing India’s arrival on the world stage as a nation capable of creating globally acclaimed documentaries.

‘Wild Karnataka’, made by veteran filmmakers Amoghavarsha J S and Kalyan Varma who had previously cut their teeth making documentaries for the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) and National Geographic, plus forest officer Vijai Mohan Raj and conservationist Sarath Champati, employs Ultra-HD technology to showcase the high ambitions of its creative team. Amoghavarsha described the film as possibly the first in a new generation of blue chip, world-beating nature documentaries made by Indians about India.

Filmed over a five-year period at a cost of Rs 4 crore and with a crew of nearly 20 men and women shooting over 400 hours of footage, the end result is a 52-minute documentary made in cooperation with the Forest Department showing natural vistas across the state coupled with previously unseen footage of wildlife in their natural habitat. It was narrated by the British conservationist David Attenborough.

According to Prashanth Prakash, who co-produced the documentary with Britain-based Icon Films, ‘Wild Karnataka’ will expose Karnataka’s rich biodiversity to the world. “The state’s wildlife and natural landscapes have been traditionally underrepresented when compared to other parts of India. With this film, we have an opportunity to change that,” he said.

The state currently has the largest population of wild tigers in India, the largest number of elephants in the wild, and nearly 6,319.127 square kilometres of the protected area divided among five national parks and 21 wildlife sanctuaries.

“Conservation efforts are going right here,” Amoghavarsha said. “This is something to be celebrated. By watching this film, perhaps people will fall in love with what they see.”

Mining for funds

Even though the theme of the documentary is forest and wilderness, the Forest Department has not made any funding and much of the film’s financing has come from eco-tourism resorts and mining companies, leading to concerns that the documentary has a conflict of interest and could potentially trigger greater eco-tourism in the region affecting the local ecology.

Ashwini Kumar Bhat, a filmmaker who served in a supporting role in the project disputed this saying that exposing the natural beauty of any landscape actually serves to protect it. “It is easier for people to take something that nobody knows about,” he said.

Amoghavarsha categorised the investors from a mining background as an ethical company. “It is easy to say that there is a conflict of interest between mining activities and the film, but their activities are within a legal framework. Resource extraction is unavoidable. We all drive cars. Where does that metal come from? What is important is how resources are extracted, and Sandur has been doing it right. In fact, we rejected three or four other corporate sponsors because we did not like their ethics.”

Amoghavarsha J S, co-director said, “India is known for its Bollywood films and Bengaluru is known for its Information Technology industry and for animation companies which have their headquarters here. With this film, it can also become a hub for documentaries.”

Sanjai Mohan, PCCF (Wildlife), said,”Our Forest Department has some of the best staff. At Bandipur, we lost just 3,000 hectares of forest cover. The media hyped up the issue.”

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With corporate cash, B’luru filmmakers aim high

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