An avid naturalist since the age of ten, 47-year old Shekar Dattatri is one of India’s leading wildlife filmmakers. An internationally respected and frequently awarded producer/director/cameraman of blue chip natural history films, he consciously turned his back on television at the height of his professional career in 2000, to work with conservation NGOs in India.
Armed with a Canon XL-1, the determination to make a difference, and a nuanced understanding of India’s conservation problems, he embarked on a series of hard-hitting films that were edited on a PC at home. Some of these films, such as ‘Mindless Mining – The Tragedy of Kudremukh’ and ‘The Ridleys Last Stand’ bolstered the efforts of conservation advocacy groups and helped bring about change. ‘Mindless Mining’, in particular, played a pivotal role in bringing to an end a government run iron ore mining operation in the heart of a rainforest ecosystem in south India’s Western Ghats mountain range.
His other significant conservation films in the last decade include ‘SOS – Save our Sholas’, about the vital need to protect the ‘shola’ forests of south India’s Western Ghats, and ‘The Truth about Tigers’, a revelatory 40 minute pro bono film that illustrates the problems and solutions in conserving India’s dwindling tiger population. Thanks to contributions from well-wishers, he has been able translate his films into several Indian languages and distribute thousands of DVDs of his films free of cost to educational institutions, NGOs and conservationists across the country. While continuing to make conservation films, he now also mentors aspiring wildlife and conservation filmmakers in India, besides giving dozens of talks on nature and conservation to varied audiences.
In 2004 he received a Rolex Award for Enterprise for his work, becoming the first conservation filmmaker to win this coveted recognition. In 2008, he received the Edberg Award from the Rolf Edberg Foundation in Sweden. The award’s citation reads: “The Edberg Foundation has decided to award its annual Edberg Award to filmmaker Shekar Dattatri, for his important work with conservation and environmental awareness in India. The Edberg Foundation notices how a world-class filmmaker has decided to forego international fame and well funded film projects for broadcasters worldwide, to pursue national, regional and local projects in India. In due time his efforts will reach a wider audience outside India, but its immediate effect on local conservation initiatives creates an example which the Edberg Foundation wants to acknowledge and praise as a model for other regions of the world. With his camera, his deep knowledge of Indian wildlife, and his great enthusiasm and belief in local action to solve environmental issues, Shekar Dattatri has set an example for the world to follow.”
By Jason Peters