GONE are the days when environmental films could be seen only in the closed circles of filmmakers and critics. The general public was hardly ever exposed to environmental issues - except for the few spots which were shown once in a while between meandering programmes. But with the advent of satellite television, things seem to have changed. Special environmental programmes are being made and telecast on the idiot box. Living on the Edge and Hum Zameen are 2 environmental serials telecast on Sunday and monday evenings.
Living on the Edge, a Miditech production, is more like a news capsule, but ironically 'their news is rather dated. Throughout the programme and in the acknowledgements, they insist on describing WWF as World Wild Life Fund. A wide range of researchers and ornithologists are interviewed to put forward the case of environmental degradation and its effect on the wetlands of Pulikat. This, and clips on the return of the California whale, which had been endangered, form somewhat interesting pieces of information but they certainly are not newsy. Moreover, the programme's presentation is lacklustre and wouldn't interest a layperson.
Hum Zameen is packaged like any other Zee programme, with a quiz contest and attractive prizes thrown in for good measure, Their stories are more interesting, in the sense that they are likely to kindle an interest in any viewer, especially animal lovers, since most of their stories are woven around animals. The story on the Kerala tusk carvers was interesting, where they have actual footage of an elephant's tusk being cut off at the tip. We are told that although this hacking may cause 'some discomfort' to the elephant, it permits abnormal growth of the tusks.
Other animals that feature on the programme are bats and hippopotami. Myths about these animals are cracked wide open: it is often believed that blood oozes out of a hippo's skin, while in reality, it is its sweat, which is red in colour.
But this programme is not limited only to wildlife. It also deals with other issues of conservation. Hum Zameen focussed on a park in Mahim, Bombay, which has been developed on what was once a landfill. The park has dwarf varieties of trees because the soil is only about 0.6 metre deep.
While the small screen was doing its bit by the environment, the Triveni Art Gallery had put up an exhibition of canine an(I other animal sketches by Sanjib Chatterjee. Sanjib's feline skecthes are inspired by his cat, Nerina. He has captured the moods and peculiar characteristics of his cat and other animals, -including a blue bull. The interesting aspect is that the artist catches the models unaware, thereby filling them out in unique postures.