Filmmaker captures tiger relocation on camera (With Images)

June 2nd, 2009 - 10:57 am ICT by IANS  

National Geographic By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, June 2 (IANS) This sprightly cameraman with a salt-and-pepper beard tracks tigers relocated from the Ranthambore National Park to Sariska with his high definition digital camera for 15 days a month. And intends to do so for a year till he has captured in his lens their struggle to survive in a new environment.

Meet S. Nallamuthu, a veteran Delhi-based independent filmmaker, who is shooting the country’s first documentary on the translocation of tigers from Ranthambore to the Sariska tiger reserve in Rajasthan to replenish the latter’s big cat population, which had gone down to zero.

“The hour-long movie on the tigers will be telecast next year. I want to capture their struggle for existence in a new land and how they capture territory from the resident population of leopards in the Sariska park. For the last four years, not a single tiger has been sighted in Sariska, which was once a busy home for the big cats. The translocation is a unique project,” Nallamuthu told IANS.

The Indian government decided to relocate tigers from Ranthambore to Sariska in 2008 after the reserve lost all its 15 tigers to poaching.

Three big cats - a male and two females - were airlifted to Sariska in a unique move in July 2008. The Wildlife Institute of India has recommended that five tigers be introduced in Sariska by the end of 2009 to breed and restore the population.

“I am making the docu-drama for a Mumbai-based company, which will telecast it on National Geographic channel. It is a very different movie - not the usual narrative drama… More behavioural in nature,” Nallamuthu said.

A freelance cinematographer since 1987, Nallamuthu, who is in his late 40s, graduated from the Film and Television Institute of India in 1986 and worked as a cinematographer for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the government’s Film Division among others.

He has several firsts to his credit. “I have worked on the country’s first series on environment, ‘Living on the Edge’, ‘The Great Escape’, ‘Off The Beaten Track’, and the country’s premier automobile show ‘Wheels’,” he said.

But the cinematographer is best known for his wildlife, environment and travel documentaries.

Nallamuthu’s films have been shown on BBC World, Channel 4, Discovery International, Star World, CNN, Star Plus, Doordarshan, NDR Germany and Fox Channel.

The cameraman is a pioneer of high-definition digital photography. The state-of-the-art television camera gives more dynamic images and supports the monochrome, RGB and CMYK colour configurations.

“It cuts costs by nearly 30 percent and ensures quality. The process is completely digital because the footages are transferred on to the hard disc and processed in the computer. It eliminates the bother and space consumed by a 35 mm movie camera and manual work,” says the filmmaker.

He is also behind the country’s first feature film shot on high definition camera, “Dharm”, which stars Pankaj Kapoor. He has just finished making a six-part docu-series, “Mumbai Calling”, on the call centres of Mumbai in the high definition format.

The high-definition format, says Nallamuthu, is smaller and more flexible. “The biggest advantage of shooting on high definition is that you have the opportunity of low cost post-manipulation. In the world of low-budget shoots, every frame and every second translate into money. Shooting electronically is fast and easy,” he said.

The cinematographer shot seven high-definition feature films last year.

Explaining the economy of costs, he says a 40-minute high-definition tape costs around Rs.3,000 but a can of 400-feet 35 mm films, which can give four minutes of footage, costs Rs.12,000.

Nallamuthu has also just shot his own first feature film “Tripping on a Bicycle” on a high definition camera.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at

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