It's the wild, wild South

It's the wild, wild South

'Wild Karnataka', a blue-chip natural history film made by Indian filmmakers and narrated by Sir David Attenborough, wants to take the state's biodiversity to the world, and in super-high quality.

The documentary 'Wild Karnataka' wants to take the state’s biodiversity to the world. And on scale mammoth. Filmed over four years, and sculpted from 400 hours of footage, the hour-long film shows the length and breadth of the state in all its variety — from the wet evergreen forests of Western Ghats to the deciduous forests of Mysore District to the thorn shrub forests and rocky outcrops of Ramnagar and Daroji, extending to the riverine and marine ecosystems.


In a first, it’s a homegrown feature shot in ultra HD, a blue-chip natural history documentary. And who but the renowned broadcaster and natural historian Sir David Attenborough narrates the story.       

“We got him to say Karnataka and words like Shivanasamudra and Hampi!” gushes Amoghavarsha J S, a Bengaluru-based award-winning wildlife filmmaker and photographer. He, along with wildlife filmmaker Kalyan Varma, naturalist Sarath Champati, and IFS officer Vijay Mohan, form the team behind the vision.

He adds, “Everything in the documentary is either a wildlife behaviour filmed for the first time, or a known behaviour filmed in way that’s never shown before. We saw otters chasing a tiger out of the water, which none of us expected. We shot coral reefs of Karnataka; wolves in the backyard. There are aerial shots of the dry belt that look out of the world. We’ve used new rigs and tech to give an intimate experience of wildlife. So, all of it is unique, I would say.”

Sir David Attenborough in a Mysore Peta.
Photo courtesy: Amoghavarsha J S. 

The meeting

The recording session with Sir David Attenborough took place in London under two hours’ time, and from the experience Amoghavarsha recalls the 93-year-old naturalist’s marked sense of wonder, and a moment of mirth, “When we gave him the Mysore Peta, he said, ‘How wonderful! Should I wear it?’ and quipped, ‘I don’t have to think about what I have to wear for Christmas next!’”

The shooting, however, says the filmmaker, was mostly reacting to nature and its unpredictability over the last four years. “The elephant congregation in Kabini did not happen for two years. It didn’t rain there for two years for us to film waterfalls. Only last year everything came together.” The team also braved leech bites, long nights without sleep, and harsh rainfall to get the best of wildlife behaviour.

The documentary is future-proof, swears Amoghavarsha. “We are confident the film will be there for the next two decades because of its high broadcast quality of 4K. Something that even Netflix, BBC would accept, something that can be shown on big screens. At the time we shot, we were confident we had the talent, the technology, and that we were no longer second in quality to anyone in the world.”

New model

This project also marks India’s foray into factual entertainment, this being on par with international high-quality documentaries. Amoghavarsha points at the magnanimity of collaboration: it’s the coming together of the Forest Department, the sponsors, and 20 filmmakers of the State. “All dimensions of the State are presented — private, government and the public. And we have completed a product that showcases this works. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. It’s a trend we should consider. And we hope to inspire the next crop of wildlife filmmakers.”      

The documentary is shot in 4K.
Seen in photo, wildlife filmmaker Amoghavarsha J S. 

Post premiere, the team plans to take Wild Karnataka to villages and its schools, have road shows, and take it to the grassroots. A Kannada version of the same is in the pipeline, too.  

“But fundamentally, we want to make people fall in love with the wildlife right in our backyard. Everything you will see has been shot within a 7-hour drive time from Bengaluru. We are blessed to have this richness of biodiversity. We protect what we love, right?” asks the filmmaker.

The documentary 'Wild Karnataka' will premiere today at Palace Grounds.  


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