THERE IS A FIRE IN YOUR FOREST· duration 58 minutes· directed by Krishnendu Bose
'a lopsided treatment of a fiery issue' -- is the first thought that strikes the mind after watching There is a fire in your forest. Made by noted environmental film maker Krishnendu Bose, the 58 minutes of visuals revolve around human conflicts in relation to conservation efforts undertaken in and around the Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. Considering Bose is an accomplished director with a long-standing relationship with conservation and environment, the latest venture falls short of expections.
The film starts with the protagonist Sanjay Sharma, -- a photojournalist and wildlife enthusiast from the metropolis -- going to Kanha. His outlook and views towards wildlife and conservation change radically after a brief halt at a roadside tea stall. A chance meeting with Anita Pawar, an activist working among the tribal people at the periphery of the park, provides an occasion for a heated debate over the issue of illegal felling of timber by the villagers. Pawar justifies the act saying that the people will carry on doing this as they have been thrown out of their houses in the name of conservation without any compensation. The metropolitan conservationist in Sharma refuses to buy the argument. Pawar then takes Sharma to these villages so that he can comprehend the peoples' plight.
The rest of the film is filled with visuals on the predominant Baiga population in the vicinity of the park, their history of eviction and the consequent woes. Sharma slowly gets involved with the villagers, making a serious atttempt to understand their problems. He plays with the children and roughs it out with the villagers exactly like what he is -- a townie with spotlights et al. In the interviews, narration, and footage that follow, it is made amply clear that severe injustice has been done to the people while creating the park. Although the film broadly conveys what Bose wishes to say, it misses out on several important facets.
Firstly the film involves a protected area but nothing much is said about it and only the villagers are talked about. While the problem revolves around forest officials' ill-treatment of the locals, none of these officials are either interviewed or for that matter even shown in the film. The management aspects of the park are totally ignored. And although the displacement of the villagers and the misery that follows are the main issues in the film, they could have been dealt with more sensitivity and efficiency for a greater impact on the viewers.
There are other issues like the rights of the villagers that are also not addressed. The viewers are merely told that the entire exercise of conservation is a sinister thing happening to the villagers and they are justified in doing whatever they do. In a nutshell, the film, attempting to portray the incompetence of the government machinery while dealing with the villagers' needs, fails to a great extent in bringing forth the manifold aspects of conservation.
Though a success in so far as dealing with the human angle pertaining to conservation, the film leaves much to be desired in terms of content.
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