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Shekar Dattatri

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When you find your life’s calling at age 13; when your first film wins the National Award in its category; when your next two films go on to repeat the same feat and prove the extent of your genius, it’s hard to stay grounded.

But Shekar Dattatri has a unique relationship with nature and wildlife, and they ground him like nothing else. From the time he became a student-volunteer at the Madras Snake Park at age 13, through the years spent as a filmmaker with television networks including Discovery Channel, National Geographic and the BBC National History Unit, as one of the top wildlife cinematographers in the world, he is most at home in the wild.

That passion tells in the intimacy he shows with the forest and wildlife; but above all, it is evident in the powerful shift his film-making has seen toward conservation, as well as in his association with top conservation forums globally. It’s unsurprising – those that devote their lives to documenting the wild often have a fiercely protective instinct towards it – but Shekar has gone beyond passive support to active advocacy. His work is hard-hitting, making no bones about its intent – perhaps why it has been so effective. A host of his films – notably, Mindless Mining: The Tragedy of Kudremukh and The Killing Fields: Orissa’s Appalling Turtle Crisis – have brought about lasting changes onground.

Today, he sits on the juries of the world’s top wildlife film festivals, writes prolifically on conservation, wildlife and film-making, and is much-awarded for his conservation efforts, becoming the only wildlife filmmaker to win the Rolex Award for Enterprise for his conservation film-making.

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