Why would a filmmaker choose to use his lens to document ‘frogs’? Maybe to tell the onlooker that frogs are killed to be eaten or could be just another attempt to emphasise on the need to conserve frogs.
However, for the two filmmakers documenting frogs, the urge was to protect the environment from the haphazard urbanisation.
Pradeep Hegde is a wildlife filmmaker who makes conservation films on different species in different landscapes across India. He grew up in the small village in the Western Ghats and spent most of his childhood gazing at the “birds and butterflies” in his backyard.
Over time, when he came to Bangalore for his studies, he started to see changes in the landscape. Being poles apart from his familiar environment, he realised the need for sensitising people to protect the environment he grew up in.
“I believe there is nothing more powerful than a good story. And we humans are always driven to stories and visuals,” said Hegde.
“I think telling stories about the environment, nature and wildlife would be one of the best ways to create environmental consciousness,” he added.
Dheeraj Aithal is a wildlife filmmaker and National Geographic explorer who has been working on conservation and wildlife films across India over the past five to six years.
Aithal has lived most of his childhood in Bangalore and has witnessed its rapid and haphazard urbanisation. He believes that the rapid urbanisation has not only affected the city’s green cover but also the air and health of the people.
This led him to explore the question about the environment around him. “During my travels across the country, I realised that this is a problem, not just with my city, but with the country itself. So this is when I realised that these are stories that need to be told,” said Aithal.
Aithal believes that filmmaking and visual media is one of the most effective and accessible media that mankind currently has.
“With the advent of mobile phones, with faster internet, it’s a media that we can use to access people from the remote parts of the country, as well as the people in the urban environments like cities,” said Aithal.
A film directed by Pradeep Hegde and Dheeraj Aithal called ‘The Last Hope’ was showcased in the All Living Things Environment Film Festival (ALT EFF) 2021. The film talks about the conservation of frogs and the struggles of people involved in the same. It not only explores the perspective of a forest ranger involved in the process of conserving rare species of frogs but also the activists who are determined to do so. The film has rare moments of action where the conflict between the police and poachers are laid out.
Aithal believes that not only can the films be made on the environment but the process of filmmaking can also be sustainable.
“I think there are few small steps that filmmakers can take and a lot of them are already taking to make filming a sustainable process, which is by using local transport and reducing the amount of waste that is thrown by film crews and film sets,” said Aithal.
He takes the help of a lot of local journalists and the local community to further his research or to gain information on the topic.
“I think it is much needed and the duty of most filmmakers to give a platform to their voices and also include their thoughts in the films that they make,” said Aithal.
Indigenous voices are an important element in the conservation films made by the two filmmakers.