THE HINDU $ MONDAY, JUNE 11, 2007
SHELL - SHOCKED
ENVIRONMENT A film with unique underwater footage reveals the wonder and the tragedy of our coral reefs
RIFE WITH LIFE Himanshu Malhotra
Do you know that every time we gingerly place a shell, coral or sea urchin in the showcase of our drawing rooms as a curio, we are abetting a crime? A crime as per the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, of destruction of coral reefs and of various endangered marine creatures.
Produced by leading wildlife filmmaker and environmentalist Himanshu Malhotra, with the film's scripting and editing done by his wife Sabina Kidwai, it is the outcome of the U.K. Film Fellowships and Wildlife, 2006, offered by the British Council and the U.K. Government that saw 7 filmmakers bring various aspects of wildlife into focus. The 13- minute film was screened at the British Council, New Delhi, this past Tuesday as one of the events to mark W orId Environment Day.
"Coral reefs are the rainforests of the seas, the nurseries of life," says Himanshu. And just how? The Indian coral reefs along the 8000 km coastline is home to mollusks, fishes and thousands of marine life forms, reveals the beautifully captured film. For, the reefs are a safe breeding ground, a resting place and even a permanent home where some species live and grow embedded in them
The coral reefs rife with life forms are excavated and even blasted with dynamite to plunder shells, varieties of coral, from the big boulder type to the small flowery ones, and sea urchins.
It is a myth, explains the husband-wife duo, that shells are just washed up on the shores. What then is the reality? The film shows the heart-rending methodology of doing away with the mollusk ensconced in the shell by boiling the shell in water! The dead creature is then scooped out clean!
Thus come the souvenirs - king shells, spider shells and the very exotic giant clam shells. "And hundreds of endangered species are wiped out every day in this way," points out the film.
The film also shows how coral reef fragility and destruction adversely affect the livelihood of the c'oastal populace that is very intimately linked to fishing.
Himanshu shot the film between October and December 2006. How was the experience of shooting underwater, a first for him? "Shooting underwater is expensive because of the equipment needed - underwater camera and housing. Besides me, two divers also photographed, for which, they needed to be trained. Shooting underwater is also time consuming," explains Himanshu.
"You may need to take more than 5 dives to get 2 shots," adds Sabina. Himanshu believes a passionate wildlife filmmaker is first an environmentalist and wild lifer and then a filmmaker. With a glint in his eyes, he says, "It was fun doing this film, as it is with every,film I produce." Now isn't that passion?
The film is slated to be aired for the first time on July 20th on Discovery Channel.