GUWAHATI, Aug 25 – Shocked by the mowing down of seven elephants – three cubs, three mothers and a tusker – by a high-speed goods train in a traditional elephant corridor of North Bengal on September 23, 2010,a young filmmaker, Ashok Patel, has come up with an award-winning short film on elephants.
The film, God on the Edge, which was screened at the Lakshmiram Baruah Sadan last evening under the aegis of Guwahati Cine Club, is an attempt not just at analyzing the escalating man-elephant conflict, including a spurt in accidental elephant deaths, but is also a poignant narrative on the unique bonding between elephants and mahouts, and the reverence accorded to the pachyderm in Indian society.
The film runs through the narrative of Md Jaan Baksh, a 60-year-old mahout at Jaldapara wildlife sanctuary who has been passionately handling elephants since the age of 11, even abandoning his family twice for his love for elephants. The bonding between human and elephants comes alive through his relationship with Sheoprasad and Urvashi.
The film notes with concern how the killer railway tracks running through dense elephant habitat as also growing settlements and commercial facilities have been causing fragmentation and degradation of forests. This in turn has intensified the man-elephant conflict to disturbing proportions. Jaan Baksh suggests a number of remedies to scale down the level of the conflict. These include controlled speed of trains, electrification of human settlements, huts on raised platforms, cultivation of alternative crops, and prohibition of night running trains through prime elephant habitats.
In the words of Jaan Baksh, “Elephants symbolize Lord Ganesha and he is worshipped across India with much fanfare. But do the revellers ever realize the stress that their deity is being subjected to in the face of thoughtless human action in destroying and fragmenting elephant habitats?”
The filmmaker says that the objective of the film is to highlight the plight of the magnificent animal that has been an intrinsic part of Indian culture since the ages, and elicit the required intervention from the authorities.
The film has already won acclaim from critics. It bagged the ‘Best Film on Environment’ at the 10th IDPA Excellence Award, Mumbai; besides officially being selected in the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival, New York.