India's Exclusive Environment and Wildlife Film Festival
November 18-20, 2003 at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi


Over the years, media especially Satellite Television has seen unprecedented growth in the country. A whiff of fresh choices greeted Indian viewers in the early 90's, with multi channel programming becoming a reality. The entry of foreign channels like Discovery, Nat Geo, and Animal planet have carved a new dedicated audience segment for nature and wildlife programming in India, which didn't exist in the yore.
Wildlife and nature programming channels are replete with high budget 'blue chip' films running into millions of dollars, mostly showing breathtaking and beautiful visuals of nature and wildlife. They focus only on the most appealing elements of nature and cultures to entice the 'global' audience. For a common viewer it is all hunky-dory. The technical razzmatazz and glossy films on nature though look awesome don't reflect the 'real' problems, nor do they address pressing issues let alone match the Indian psyche and context.
This is where Indian filmmakers have to make a mark. To raise the levels of awareness, express and bring out hard-hitting environmental programmes and documentaries that reflect the ecological destruction and concerns. It is a sad fact that Indian filmmakers don't have lavish budgets and time to produce films unlike their western counterparts. India provides a vast mosaic of environmental issues that are challenging and have largely remained unexplored. Environment and wildlife filmmakers work under demanding and at times life threatening situations and terrains, where even basic medical help could be out of reach for many days together. Not just shoestring but 'shameful' budgets further exacerbate their plight and waters down the filmmaker's enthusiasm.

Thus the scope for 'activist films' needs to be widened further in the country among the Indian filmmakers, through proper institutional support and adequate funding. 'Vatavaran 2003' India's exclusive wildlife and environment film festival is one such effort to promote and encourage Indian filmmakers to produce quality environment, wildlife and conservation film. Indian environment and wildlife documentary filmmakers have made giant strides and have received international recognition in the recent years. There is a need to recognize and institutionalize such documentary films and ventures to promote environmental concern, to sensitize and address the public and policy makers at large.

Last year film festival "Vatavaran 2002" was applauded as a pioneering effort in field of environmental filmmaking, organized by the Centre for Media Studies (CMS) and Ministry of Environment and Forests. In the very first year of its inception, an astonishing 100 film entries were received. Such a huge response from the film making fraternity has reaffirmed the faith in organizing this event. "Vatavaran" has now become an annual calendar event, promoting the best environment and wildlife film talent in the country and forging common grounds to showcase environmental films to huge national audiences.


In this years 'Vatavaran 2003' film festival, an overwhelming 154 entries have been received from across the country in eight categories including Wildlife conservation, Natural Resource Conservation, Special theme of the festival 'Water', Films produced by children, and TV programmes.

Over 100 eminent professional from varied fields including Cinema, media, education, environment and wildlife were closely involved in organizing this year's festival. Internationally acclaimed and eminent filmmaker Shri Adoor Gopalakrishnan heads the Jury for final selection of the films this year. Sixteen National awards with total prize money of Rs.6, 50,000/- were awarded to the outstanding and hard hitting documentary films in this year's film festival, held at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.

'Vatavaran 2003' endeavors to provide a platform to some of the aspiring and brilliant environment and wildlife filmmakers of the country who have remained largely unsupported. It was an opportunity to converge and become participants and partners in preservation and conservation efforts.


· An astonishing 154 fresh entries were received this year as against 104 odd entries last year from all over the country. Even though a substantial 65 entries have been received from Delhi based filmmakers alone, followed by Maharashatra with 35 entries, UP and Rajasthan with nine entries each, there have been entries from Dholka, Sirmaur, Ernakulam, Sagar, Harda, Raigarh and Talegon.
· More than six thousand enthusiastic school children, college students, film-makers, NGOs, concerned citizens participated.
· Eminent people from the field of environment, wildlife and filmmakers converged under the auspices of "Vatavaran 2003", three rounds of engaging and insightful panel discussion on issues such as Water crisis: looking beyond, lack of environmental program's on Indian television, and wildlife film making. engaging panel discussion on the state of "Wildlife filmmaking in India: Issues and challenges".
· Screenings of 30 thought provoking documentary films on issues concerning water, rain water harvesting, conservation of water, policies prevailing community controlling water resources, Olive Ridley's, role and beauty of dragonflies, climate change, pesticide contamination, lignite mining, medicinal plants, coral reefs, rights of community on their natural resources etc.
· This year four new categories and awards were introduced in the festival including 'Best film produced by children (Rs 50,000/-), 'Best of the festival (Rs1, 50,000/-), and 'Revelation (about startling new insights or discovery)' and 'Newcomers' both carrying a citation.
· Recognizing the popularity and support "Vatavaran" has achieved in a short span of time, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has expressed its full "support and backing to Vatavaran". For the first time CMS & UNEP is recognized and institutionalized "Prithvi Ratna" award, for "outstanding contribution" in the field of wildlife and environment filmmaking. This special award includes a citation and plaque.
· A bewildering 154 entries from filmmakers across the country posed an enormous challenge to shortlist and nominate the films for the coveted 'Vatavaran awards' this year. A 30 member strong Screening and Nomination Committee headed by well-known writer and columnist Shri Bhaskar Ghose, was constituted for a rigorous and transparent judging process for the nomination of final entries under seven different categories.
· Eminent professionals from various fields including cinema, media, education, environment and wildlife are closely involved in organizing the festival, prominent being Shri Suresh P. Prabhu, Shri Samar Singh, Shri J. Veera Raghavan, Shri Kiran Karnik, Shri. Rajiv Mehrotra, Shri Bittu Sahgal, Dr. Iqbal Malik, and Shri Sahab Singh.
· In response to the 'Vatavaran 2003' promotional campaign being shown on television networks including Doordarshan and Zee News, (CMS) received more than 4000 enquires which included letters and phone calls, from the length and breadth of the country. Most of them were written by children aged (8-15 years), soliciting further information to participate in the festival.
· CMS has also received requests from several government, autonomous and non-governmental organizations to host 'Vatavaran' in their respective cities. Some prominent individual or organizations like Amol Palekar, CPR Environmental Education Centre (Chennai), AP Pollution Control Board (Hyderabad), few NGO's in Kolkata, and Centre for Environment Education, Ahmedabad.
· Some prominent International organizations like United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Wild Screen (UK), Television trust for the Environment, Asia Pacific (TVE Asia Pacific), Planet in Focus (Canada International environment film festival) have expressed keen interest in collaborating with CMS and be active partner of 'Vatavaran' in the coming years.


"Vatavaran 2003", India's exclusive National Environment and Wildlife Film Festival have received phenomenal response. The three days began with Special screenings for the children and panel discussion on issues like "Water crisis: Looking Beyond" and "Promoting Green Programmes on Indian Television: Planning the route ahead". The Film Festival got off to a colorful start in a gala inaugural ceremony. The three day long film festival showcases some of the best documentaries produced by Indian filmmakers, focusing on conservation and topical environmental issues. 'Water' is the main theme of the festival this year.

Inaugurating the film festival the Chief Guest of the ceremony, Shri Vijai Kapoor, Lt.Governor, Delhi appreciated the effort in organizing the film festival second year in a row. In his welcome address Mr. Suresh P. Prabhu, the Chairperson of the Steering Committee 'Vatavaran-2003' said, "Vatavaran 2003" has evoked an overwhelming 154 film entries from across the country. Second year in running and such an unprecedented response from the filmmakers fraternity, goes on to exemplify the producers quest for a appropriate and credible platform to showcase their works and concerns towards environment. Vatavaran provides one such opportunity."

The festival showcased some thirty short listed environment and conservation films, under eight different categories. Highlighting the need to hold an annual event, Mr. Prabhu said, "Vatavaran-endeavor is to encourage and nurture a new breed of alternate filmmakers who are passionate about environmental issues and through films want to articulate the larger environmental concerns to initiate a dialogue and debate."

Mr. Rajender Singh, Social activist and recipient of Magsaysay Award, expressing his appreciation towards the initiative and said, "Films are an effective medium to trigger grassroot change, such an effort should be sustained to educate and spread the message of conservation." Later he released a catalogue on Vatavaran 2003 with details and synopsis of the nominated films to be screened during the festival.

Dr. N. Bhaskara Rao, Chairman, Centre for Media Studies pointed out that the CMS is organizing the film festival keeping in mind a five-pronged strategy-namely to encourage filmmakers, to effectively use the powerful audio-visual media, to sensitize Indian television channels to be more receptive to the idea, to enthuse young ones and children, and to inculcate appreciation and concern among the viewers towards environment.
Ms. Nafisa Ali Sodhi, Celebrity & Social activist, expressed her happiness in being part of this year's festival, she said "We as Indians need to unite on a common platform and think about Vatavaran because environment is god given and not the privilege of humans". She further added that the "films and events like these bring to the forefront issues facing the environment and bring to the attention of the young and concerned people the issues at stake."

Lighting of 'Diyas' and a special dance drama "Back to the present" by Sanskriti school children marked the inauguration of the festival at the India Habitat Centre. A photo exhibition was also unveiled under the aegis of Vatavaran 2003. A path breaking film in the field of conservation 'Shores of Silence-Whale Sharks in India' by Mike H. Pandey, was screened after the inaugural ceremony, marking the beginning of the exclusive environment and wildlife film festival.


Water Crises: Thinking Beyond
--- A Panel Discussion

The highlight being an engaging panel discussion on Water crisis: Thinking Beyond. Initiating the panel discussion, Shri Suresh Prabhu, MP, Chairman, Interlinking of Rivers stressed on the need to interlink rivers to solve the water crisis. He said, "Supply of water cannot be augmented to match its demand, river linkage is a possible solution to water scarcity".

Addressing the gathering Rajender Singh, Magsaysay Award winner and Social activist articulated his concerns on the issue. He said, "I do not support river linking in India." Instead of linking rivers he suggested "communities be linked to the river".

In a moving speech that spellbound the jam-packed auditorium, Medha Patkar, eminent social activist questioned the present development paradigm. She advocated small and micro level projects as the only way out for the solving the water crisis that is staring the nation today. She said "not because small is beautiful, but because small is just, small is manageable, let us start with small". Questioning the mammoth projects and dam construction she stressed that the need of the hour is not macro but many micro level projects at local level.

During the three-hour long panel discussion involving students, intellectuals and filmmakers, Dr. B. Sengupta, Member Secretary, Central Pollution Control Board, raised the issue of the water wastage and pollution.

Indian Television: Planning the Route Ahead
---A Panel Discussion

An insightful discussion titled "Promoting Green programmes on Indian Television: Planning the route ahead", on the lack of relevant, adequate and quality environmental programmes on Indian television followed under the auspices of "Vatavaran 2003". Chairing the panel discussion, Mr.Rajiv Mehrotra, Managing Trustee, Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT) appreciated the platform provided for the filmmakers and said, "Vatavaran deserves applause and gratitude because it is a step forward towards creating demand pull for environmental programmes." Citing the limitation that Indian environmental filmmakers face, Eminent environmental filmmaker Mike H Pandey said," We make films to make a difference but they have to be seen. We need support from government and media". Emphasising on the ethnicity of the filmmakers he observed "Indian perspective can come only from Indian filmmakers."

Mr. Pankaj Saxena, Programme Director, Discovery on an optimistic note said", Audience for nature programming is not just substantial but also growing". Dispelling the myth, he said that even "Hindi speaking audience is also keen to watch nature programmes". However he lamented the limited environmental and wildlife programming on Indian television. Applauding the role of CMS he said "tremendous credit is due to CMS for starting the debate on environmental issues, we may not find answers but Vatavaran has tried to create a network that would persist on finding answers to various environmental issues".

Mr. Desh Deepak Verma, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests stressed the need to widen the reach of the environmental programmes among the television audience. He underlined the fact that presently the "emphasis is on creating spots and not on films". He urged private sector to play a more proactive role in furthering environmental dialogue through electronic media specially films.

Wildlife Film Making in India: Issues & Challenges
--- A Panel Discussion

Chairing the panel discussion Mr. Vinod Rishi, additional Director General (Wildlife) in his address stressed the need for qualitative improvement in environmental film making in India. He said that "Vatavaran 2003" would give further boost by showcasing the best Environmental and conservation films produced in India.

Noted wildlife filmmaker Naresh Bedi voiced his concerns on the lack of funding and support. He said, "making wildlife films is not easy, and there is a lack of support in India to wildlife film makers". Mr.Himanshu Malhotra, renowned wildlife filmmaker sharing his views on the issue cautioned the skeptics, he said "since Indian wild life film makers are making films on meager budgets, they shouldn't be compared to anyone".

Earlier Dr.N.Bhaskar Rao, Chairman, CMS, initiating the discussion emphasized the need for encouraging and motivating the environment filmmakers in the country. He said support will come once there is appreciation. "Vatavaran is one such platform to promote and applaud the environment and wildlife filmmakers in the country", he added.

Awards Details