Get rid of complacency,” says Shekar Dattatri. That’s the one thing that all of us can do if we want to help save our planet. “Our planet is experiencing a massive ecological crisis that we have caused. We can’t sit back and hope that little green aliens from Mars will come and set things right. Each of us needs to get involved right now in efforts to heal the planet,” adds the city-based wildlife filmmaker and conservationist, who is currently working on a film that focuses on the ecology and restoration of the Chilika Lake in Odisha.
Dattatri, whose interest in nature started when he was very young as he watched squirrels, parakeets, sunbirds and ants in his neighbourhood, says that apart from getting rid of complacency, political will is the need of the hour in our country. “Although India is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world, we lack the requisite degree of political will to preserve and protect our natural assets,” he rues.
An authority on using the arts to raise awareness about eco-conservation across the country, Dattari adds that his belief in making well-researched, short and snappy conservation films has taken him a long way. “I have always felt that instead of simply making entertaining wildlife films for television channels, I could use my skills to make films that bring out the problems in conservation and offer solutions,” he explains.
And yet, unless these films are seen by the right people, they serve little purpose, he admits, “That is why I usually join hands with committed NGOs who can ensure that policy-makers get to see the films,” says Dattari, who, over the years, had made films on the impact of mining in wildlife habitats, the adverse effects of mechanised fishing in the habitat of sea turtles, the intricacies of tiger conservation, training videos on wildlife science, as well as short films on conservation success stories.
Every person who reads a book or watches a film is affected by it in a different way, Dattatri opines. “It’s impossible to always measure such impact. My aim is to make films that give people an insight into a problem.” Sometimes, the impact is immediate, and the action that follows is tangible. “At other times, a film may evoke sympathy without leading to substantial action,” Dattatri he shrugs, but that’s the way life rolls.
“Of course, there’s always the practical problem of sustaining this kind of non-revenue earning filmmaking,” Dattatri says, adding that the Rolex Award for Enterprise that he won in 2004 provided a much-needed boost. “I could purchase the video equipment I needed after the award money came through,” he says with a smile.