Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ashvin Kumar as in the final throes of finishing his latest film, The Forest. And by all accounts it should be a top-notch thriller, but it offers much, much more than rising hairs on the back of the neck as his Ashvin Kumar's personal blog shows...
The Forest is a thriller with an environmental conscience. Instead of preaching to the converted (as wildlife documentaries do), I thought that I need to / could do something significant about the wildlife crisis that is staring us in the face, not only global warming and devastating effects of destruction on the planet, but focus on the most callous destruction of all - poaching, killing animals for skins and bones - to satisfy some ancient quirk of distant Chinese and Tibetan patrons.
That too in the most cruel manner devised. Modern day poachers are not hunters. They are assembly line killers. They prefer to bait / trap often letting the animal writhe and thrash around for hours rather than kill an animal with a bullet. Moreover, our national parks have become sanctuaries not for animals but private hunting grounds for the likes of Sansar Chand and his ilk. Look him up on Google. Its horrifying what he's single handedly been allowed to get away with.
If people can come to my movie to be entertained, thrilled and horrified and by tickling those senses I can saliently highlight the spendour of our jungles and their imminent destruction then I would have achieved what I set out to do.
The Forest is an original story set in a semi period setting. I imagined the Kumaon of Jim Corbett and much of the leopard behavior in the film is based on his man-eater tales, specially that of Rudraprayag. But more so, it is recreating his spirit and the spell his lucid storytelling cast on me. And an homage to the many many hours spent in uncomfortable hides, the courage that comes of stalking a man-eater at night in the Indian jungle. Only someone who has been to the jungle on a moon-less night (or even a full moon night for that matter) can actually appreciate the quality of silky darkness and place into proper context what those exploits meant.
The wildlife elements of the film have been shot by Naresh and his brother Rajesh Bedi, arguably the finest cinematographers of Indian wildlife. It is a pleasure to come to those images every morning on my editing table. And as the film takes final shape, I can only reiterate that they've made Corbett National Park and Bandavgarh National Park look spectacular.
It is that flavour that surrounds the characters, yuppies from New Delhi who go to the jungle to sort out their rocky marriage. Its that sort of respect for the environment that I decided to make my debut feature around. Highly recommend reading Corbett's deeply entertaining and pleasurable accounts of his hunting expeditions in Kumaon and Garwal. Pick up any of his books. Specially Man Eaters of Kumaon.
When the 'west' thinks wildlife or safari they think of the African bush. Hopefully after seeing The Forest they would want to come and see the tiger. See the destruction of our forests. See that this beast that has proliferated in our sub-continent for thousands of years has come close to extinction. See that if the tiger becomes extinct, then the entire ecosystem that is constructed around it will also fail and rapidly decline. And maybe that would be a small contribution to the valiant efforts of WPSI (Wildlife Protection Society of India), Vallmik Thapar, Fateh Singh Rathore, Ullas Karant, Ashok Kumar and the small band of conservationists, NGOs and dedicated forest officials around the country who have given their lives in the face of daunting odds to the project of saving the tiger, though even the most optimistic of them give the tiger not more than four or five years more in the wild.
Though, as I write this, a glimmer of hope shines through this morning's paper carries headlines about how the PM has got the Army involved (for the first time) in wildlife protection.
Will that change things? I certainly hope so.
Watch The Forest Trailer on Quicktime