The Forest, My Film and Save Our Tigers

 

The Bengal Tiger - fewer and fewer remain in the wildOscar-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.

Bengal Tiger in India's Corbett National Park, where The Forest was shotIf 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.

Edward James Corbett the famous maneater hunter whose stories inspired the thrilling atmosphere of The Forest 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.

The leopard takes a starring role in Ashvin Kumar's film as a man-eater roaming the district in search of preyWhen 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.

Ashvin Kumar - Oscar nominated for The Little TerroristThough, 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.

 

Ashvin's Blog

Alipur Films

Rumble in the Jungle

Jim Corbett maneater-hunter & filmmaker

Shooting People interviews with Ashvin Kumar

Watch The Forest Trailer on Quicktime

 

 

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0 # Can\'t Wait to Get into The ForestGuest 2007-01-14 12:18
I have followed Ashvin Kumar\'s filmmaking career for the last few years and found we both admired Jim Corbett, a \"reformed\" hunter who dedicated himself to protecting the wildlife in India\'s forests which was already under serious pressure fifty years ago. The position is far worse now.

Ashvin sent me some early B roll footage from his film and there was little doubt, even from these rushes, that he has captured the majesty and the atmosphere of these hill forests of India.

The film was shot in the Jim Corbett National Park, the very area where from time to time Corbett would again pick up his rifle and set off on foot to once again stalk one of India\'s big cats - this time to rid the local villagers of a man-eater that was terrorising the whole district, with people afraid to go into the forest to cur fodder for their cattle or gather firewood. Corbett\'s books are a repository of informed wisdom on India\'s wildlife and of the jungle craft he used to stalk a target that was just as capable of ending his life as he was of ending the life of his quarry.

These books are so atmospheric, they are real nail biters! As a boy I used to have to read mine under the bedclothes... Little wonder they became best sellers in many countries of the world. And they are still in print, from the Oxford University Press in India, where they are standard texts in all schools.

If the Indian government feels they are so important in educating India\'s children, they must be precious indeed as an introduction to India\'s rish flora and fauna, which has become so threatened by man\'s encroachment.

The fact that India\'s government has decided to use the army in protected areas to help the fight against forest poachers is a sign that they are taking serious action to help conserve what still remains. Can you imagine an India without magnificent animals like the Royal Bengal Tiger? It is almost unthinkable, but it could soon become a reality.

Ashvin Kumar hopes his film will reach an audience that wildlife documentaries rarely do and show them something of the beauty and the magnificence of the Indian forests and the majestic creatures that live there - for now.

Time is getting very short.

Good Luck Ashvin with your film. I am really looking forward to seeing how you have woven these important themes around your story of a couple with a fractured relationship trying to rebuild it in an way-from-it all situation in a forest bungalow. I know from Corbett the kind of unexpected things that can turn up inside an Indian forest bungalow, especially when there\'s a man-eating leopard roaming the district!

James MacGregor
0 # Can\'t Wait to Get into The ForestGuest 2007-01-14 12:18
I have followed Ashvin Kumar\'s filmmaking career for the last few years and found we both admired Jim Corbett, a \"reformed\" hunter who dedicated himself to protecting the wildlife in India\'s forests which was already under serious pressure fifty years ago. The position is far worse now.

Ashvin sent me some early B roll footage from his film and there was little doubt, even from these rushes, that he has captured the majesty and the atmosphere of these hill forests of India.

The film was shot in the Jim Corbett National Park, the very area where from time to time Corbett would again pick up his rifle and set off on foot to once again stalk one of India\'s big cats - this time to rid the local villagers of a man-eater that was terrorising the whole district, with people afraid to go into the forest to cur fodder for their cattle or gather firewood. Corbett\'s books are a repository of informed wisdom on India\'s wildlife and of the jungle craft he used to stalk a target that was just as capable of ending his life as he was of ending the life of his quarry.

These books are so atmospheric, they are real nail biters! As a boy I used to have to read mine under the bedclothes... Little wonder they became best sellers in many countries of the world. And they are still in print, from the Oxford University Press in India, where they are standard texts in all schools.

If the Indian government feels they are so important in educating India\'s children, they must be precious indeed as an introduction to India\'s rish flora and fauna, which has become so threatened by man\'s encroachment.

The fact that India\'s government has decided to use the army in protected areas to help the fight against forest poachers is a sign that they are taking serious action to help conserve what still remains. Can you imagine an India without magnificent animals like the Royal Bengal Tiger? It is almost unthinkable, but it could soon become a reality.

Ashvin Kumar hopes his film will reach an audience that wildlife documentaries rarely do and show them something of the beauty and the magnificence of the Indian forests and the majestic creatures that live there - for now.

Time is getting very short.

Good Luck Ashvin with your film. I am really looking forward to seeing how you have woven these important themes around your story of a couple with a fractured relationship trying to rebuild it in an way-from-it all situation in a forest bungalow. I know from Corbett the kind of unexpected things that can turn up inside an Indian forest bungalow, especially when there\'s a man-eating leopard roaming the district!

James MacGregor
0 # I Have Been in the ForestGuest 2007-01-26 14:57
I have managed to get a look at a preview copy of The Forest and I can tell you it certainly lives up to its promise. Ashvin Kumar has produced an excellent thriller with an intriguing and engaging storyline as a Delhi couple try to rebuild their marriage in a remote forest bungalow retreat. Predators are on the prowl around them and they are not all four-legged! It is a lovely piece of work and achieved on a very limited budget. Ashvin\'s come up trumps again with this one.
0 # I Have Been in the ForestGuest 2007-01-26 14:57
I have managed to get a look at a preview copy of The Forest and I can tell you it certainly lives up to its promise. Ashvin Kumar has produced an excellent thriller with an intriguing and engaging storyline as a Delhi couple try to rebuild their marriage in a remote forest bungalow retreat. Predators are on the prowl around them and they are not all four-legged! It is a lovely piece of work and achieved on a very limited budget. Ashvin\'s come up trumps again with this one.