Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Treating nature with reverence

Huned Contractor
OneWorld South Asia
17 April 2008

Pune, Maharashtra: As winner of innumerable national and international awards for his acclaimed films on wildlife, you would expect Mike Pandey to hold forth on filmmaking, the dilemmas it imposes and the success it brings.


Mike Pandey / Photo credit: The Telegraph

Instead, the first thing he touches upon, after receiving the Vasundhara Mitra Award in Pune in March 2008, is the failure of government in doing anything concrete about saving the flora and fauna of the land.

"There is nothing such as a strong political will in India that will help save the environment. It’s not enough to announce policies, which remain on paper. The reality has to be studied in detail and measures have to be practical enough for quick implementation," he states.

Early forays

Mike was born in Kenya, and the Nairobi National Park, which was situated at the back of the Pandey household, is probably what proved to be a rich source of inspiration for him in terms of choosing his career.

Mike’s tinkering with the camera started when he was barely seven when an uncle presented him a Kodak Browning Box camera on his birthday.

On his father's insistence, Mike joined the British Aircraft Corporation, and also took classes in filmmaking, but before he could graduate as an aeronautic engineer, Mike turned into a full-time filmmaker.

He trained at the London Film School and Regent Street Polytechnic in the UK, and worked at Universal and MGM studios in the US during his student days alongside legends like Charlton Heston and Clint Eastwood.

He also worked on the special effects for films like Romeo And Juliet, Planet 0f The Apes, Dirty Harry, Lions Of Gir, and a few more.

Coming back

After returning to India he did a brief foray in the Indian film industry in Bombay doing special effects for movies such as Betaab, Razia Sultan and others before he decided to switch to documentaries.

In 1994, he became the first Asian to win the Wildscreen Panda Award, also known as the Green Oscar, for his film The Last Migration – Wild Elephant Capture In Sarguja.

In 2000, his film Shores Of Silence - Whale Sharks In India, won the Green Oscar for the second time. The film also led to the ban on the killing of whale sharks on Indian shores.

Pandey is also the first filmmaker to be awarded the prestigious United Nations International Award for Outstanding Achievement in Global Conservation.

Switching lanes to talk about how he slots himself as a wildlife filmmaker in society, Pandey states: "I see myself as a person who has to share information so that it can lead to positive changes. Documentary films are the backbone of a country."

Taking the point further, Pandey feels that documentaries must also be made in a story-telling format so as to appeal to a wider audience and make them more effective.

Sensitising people

"We need to sensitise the urban audiences into caring for our natural resources, which includes wildlife. Also, a larger number of corporate groups should step in as part of their social responsibility to fund documentaries so that the truth is known to all," he says.

The onus of preserving wildlife, Pandey opines, is also upon people who live in rural areas. "They are the ones who have to be aware of the need to preserve wildlife because if they don’t do it, nobody else will. Also, we must all learn to treat nature with reverence," he adds.

As an example of how the eco-system needs to be balanced at all times, Pandey draws attention to the rampant killing of leopards in Himachal Pradesh where due to fewer leopards feeding on monkeys, the crops are being destroyed by the latter.

Even though he continues to face bureaucratic hassles and the shortage of sponsorship to make his films, Pandey hasn’t lost his optimism.

"We have organisations like People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and celebrities like John Abraham and others who are more than willing to spare time and effort to bring about a change in society.

However, the media needs to do its bit too. Television coverage, especially, takes a single view stand in cases where wild animals foray into the urban milieu and cause destruction. A question such as why did an animal stray into the city is one that needs to be posed here to provide a proper perspective," he points out.

And as a parting shot, Pandey laments the fact that even after so many years of independence, we have still not devised an effective way of protecting the tiger. "The issue is well known, there has been more than enough coverage by the media and there are experts who are willing to provide a solution. And yet, we are losing the tiger. That’s sad, really sad," he states.

Source: http://southasia.oneworld.net/article/view/159856/1/1893

1 comment:

roopa said...

I tried to write to him but the news source made commenting hell. SO I gave up. WE are lucky to have committed people like you Mike. Stay on.