We reached out to filmmakers from our International Elephant Film Festival and asked them five questions about the experience of creating their films.
What inspired you to make this film?
Praveen Singh: "As a wildlife filmmaker and person interested in wildlife conservation in India, I had read about Manas. For many years, Indian naturalists, writers and conservationists deemed this place to be one of India’s finest national parks, in terms of its beauty and unparalleled bio-diversity. I wished to visit this place but two decades of ethnic conflict had resulted in Manas becoming a virtual no go zone for even forest department officials, let alone tourists. When finally, in the mid 2000’s Manas began to return to normalcy and effective steps were taken to protect and conserve what remained of Manas, I visited Manas for the first time in 2011. Manas drew me in, inspired me. Seeing the ongoing conservation efforts of the forest department, wildlife conservationists and the Bodoland Territorial Council motivated us to tell the story of revival of this amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site."
"Kosmik Global Media Pvt. Ltd, an Indian production company focused on wildlife documentary production, with whom I am a Director and Cinematographer, teamed up with Ammonite, UK to bring this story of Manas to viewers. With Ammonite's expertise in use of thermal, infrared and starlight camera technologies for unobtrusive night filming and our knowledge of the place, access to conservation organizations and ability to liaison with the forest department, we worked as a team in unison to tell a story. We hope to enthuse people in India and around the world to work together to safeguard this wild wonderland."
Were there any particularly meaningful moments or experiences in the process?
Praveen Singh: "Everyday spent in this beautiful forest was meaningful. From watching the hornbills, the flowering of Semul, conversations with forest guards or the drives in pitch darkness only aided by a thermal camera hoping to catch sight of a clouded leopard – were experiences that can’t be described in words. It was a privilege to be able to spend time in this wilderness. However, for me personally, one particular moment will remain etched in memory forever. Seeing a tiger here is a matter of sheer luck."
"One day, in the afternoon while filming jungle fowl on the road, suddenly with no forewarning of alarm calls, a tiger just appeared out of nowhere and sat behind a tree watching us film. He sat there for a minute or so, quite curious and then just bolted and vanished into the thick jungle…It was one of the most memorable tiger sightings I have ever had in any Indian forest. It was magical, had all the elements of surprise and drama, inherently characteristics of the natural world."
Describe some of the challenges?
Praveen Singh: "Filming at night is always a challenge and more so when one is using unobtrusive, specially customized technology like we were - thermal, infrared and starlight cameras for capturing animal behavior. In Manas, thick jungles, tall grasses and low animal densities on account of decades of conflict, made our task very challenging and difficult. There were some jungle tracks – narrow, rocky paths bounded by thick forest, that we would avoid because of potential danger from elephants, as we were in low, open jeeps and in case of a sudden encounter with an elephant herd, it could spell trouble. This was a track where clouded leopards had been camera trapped, so perhaps we missed out on filming the elusive clouded leopard as a result, but safety is paramount."
"We wanted to spend more time filming from the river, but didn’t have access to a silent motorboat. Low water levels in the river meant, we could only go upstream up to a point and that in a noisy country boat fitted with a noisy motor, scaring away animals before we got anywhere close to them. The only other option was to float down the river in a raft with a soft rubber bottom, again unsuitable for filming."
What are you working on now?
Praveen Singh: "There are a couple of projects in the pipeline. Essentially, we want to tell positive stories – stories that can inspire and motivate people to conserve our precious wilderness areas. We want to shine the spotlight on lesser known, but no less important wildlife areas in India."
Anything else you would like people to know?
Praveen Singh: "In India, as people aspire for better standards of living, given our population, we are faced with a tremendous challenge to protect and conserve our natural heritage. The only way we might be able to do this is if people get actively involved in conservation; if people realize that all the wealth in the world can not bring back the natural world once it’s lost and if people work consciously to reduce their consumption, which directly impacts the natural world in mostly negative ways."
"As a wildlife filmmaker it is my endeavor to bring to viewers the awe, the wonder and the magic of the natural world through powerful, compelling and visually engaging storytelling."
Praveen Singh is an India based wildlife filmmaker and cameraman. Since completing a Masters in ‘Mass Communication’ from New Delhi in 1998, Praveen has been working in wildlife/conservation related television programming. He was a faculty member at the Wildlife Institute of India: the country’s premier wildlife research and training centre. Apart from his wildlife documentaries he has twice won the Asian Pitch in Singapore for social documentaries. Praveen currently works for Kosmik Global Media Pvt. Ltd. Kosmik Global Media Pvt. Ltd. is a Mumbai, India, based Production Company specializing in wildlife documentaries. With Uday Sinh Wala as its CEO, Kosmik has embarked on an ambitious journey to become a leading content producer of wildlife documentaries from India.