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November 28, 2020

Wild Karnataka, India’s first natural history film

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After four years in the making, a band of 20 film-makers were left with 400 hours of footage for what is now India’s first blue chip natural history film.
Nikitta Puri reports.

Wild Karnataka

All Photographs: Kind courtesy Wild Karnataka/Facebook

In the hot, arid backdrop of Koppal in Karnataka, a pile of rocks is home to an elusive jungle cat and her kittens.

Barely 10 metres away, the rocks also harbour foxes and other four-legged creatures who’d be interested in snacking on the kittens.

Unseen by the mother, one of the kittens sneaks away to find itself staring at a cobra, its hood raised ready for attack.


Wild Karnataka

Another gripping sight: Thousands of ‘soldiers’ marching out of the water along the coast of Karwar.

They emerge, feast and fight before turning back to the water, leaving behind only sand pellets.

Wild Karnataka

These are tiny crabs, their martial aspect lying in how they march in unison.

Both these sequences are part of Wild Karnataka, a documentary film that reveals the astonishingly varied landscape of the state and the creatures, great and small, that inhabit its wilds.

Wild Karnataka

Some scenes in the film border on the unbelievable. The sequence depicting a group of four otters in the backwaters of the Kabini river scaring off a tiger is just one of the several unexpected instances documented in Wild Karnataka.

“A lot of the encounters are actually stories of the underdog,” says Amoghavarsha J S, a wildlife photographer turned film-maker.

He’s also one of the four directors of the film. The others are Kalyan Varma, also a wildlife photographer, naturalist Sarath Champati, and Vijay Mohan Raj, chief conservator of forests in Karnataka.

Wild Karnataka

Wild Karnataka

After four years in the making, a band of 20 film-makers including the directors were left with 400 hours of footage for what is now India’s first blue chip natural history film.

The film is shot on 4k resolution (ultra-high definition) and boasts of stunning aerial shots, such as when the camera glides over thundering waterfalls.

The film was fortunate to have no funding hiccups thanks to backers and investors as diverse as the Karnataka forest department, Prashanth Prakash of venture capital fund Accel, an ethical mining company Sandur Manganese and Iron Ore, and eco-tourism brand Jungle Lodges and Resorts.

Wild Karnataka

The 52-minute-long documentary is far from being a film that rests on the laurels of quality technology or visual stories alone.

The documentary is narrated by Sir David Attenborough, the venerable 93-year-old English conservationist who has lent his talents to monumental projects such as the television series Planet Earth.

The film’s music score, by Grammy-winner Ricky Kej, also complements the sounds of the land, be it the call of the langur in a forest or the winds sweeping across an arid landscape.

Wild Karnataka

“We have to compete with things like Game of Thrones these days,” laughs Amoghavarsha, commenting on the need to make a film with excellent production values.

To many Indians, the idea of indigenous wildlife is “hippos and giraffes because that’s all people have seen on their televisions,” says Varma. (Neither species is native to India.) To fix misconceptions like this, the team has also wrapped up a Kannada version of the film.

Wild Karnataka

“One of the biggest takeaways from the film is that although the state is known for tigers and elephants (it has the largest wild population of both, globally), we have also focused on animals such as dracos (flying lizards), frogs and otters,” says Mohan Raj.

Almost 50 per cent of the film is shot outside of national parks, highlighting how a wildlife habitat is just a couple of hours in any direction.

Wild Karnataka

The directors are preparing to release the film via an online platform.

Wild Karnataka

Watch the film: If not to plan your next nature holiday then to simply luxuriate in the plethora of wild stories.

Wild Karnataka

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