Navin Raheja talks about his collaboration with Late actor Tom Alter on Wilderness Day
Navin Raheja talks about his new show, Wilderness Day where he and the late actor documented India's wildlife
In the four decades that he has been documenting wildlife, Navin Raheja, chairman of Raheja Productions, has been mock charged at least four times by wild animals including tigers and elephants. In such instances, the animal charges at you, stops half way, turns around, and runs away. "It is one of the most thrilling moments, but also life threatening. You need to know what to do in such situations," says the 67-year-old. He attributes his miraculous escape to his experience in navigating core forest areas. "And, of course, divine intervention," he laughs.
These thrilling encounters, produced by Raheja and hosted by late actor Tom Alter, now form part of an upcoming wildlife show on EPIC channel titled Wilderness Day. The two met four years ago in Delhi when Alter approached him with the idea of a collaboration. "He had heard about my experience in the field. We zeroed in on a TV series because there's so much to tell. What we know about wildlife is not even one per cent of what exists. Both Tom and I wanted to share these stories," says the former member of the Project Tiger's steering committee and chairman of the Wildlife Conservation Society of India. The 26 episodes revolve around the wildlife ecosystem and stories of untamed animals in their natural habitat. For this, the team travelled the length and breadth of the country including Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve, Rajaji National Park, Pauri, Valley of Flowers, Choti Haldwani in Uttarakhand, Kanha National Park, Bandhavgarh National Park, Mandu in Madhya Pradesh and Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan.
The waiting game
He recalls how Tom and he would spend countless hours filming in the forests, holed up inside the jeep waiting for the elusive leopard that never revealed itself. "It's not easy documenting wildlife. You need tremendous patience and great tenacity. Animals don't work according to your schedules," he says. But the efforts are always worth it. He recounts an anecdote from Ranthambore National Park, where a male tiger, normally known to kill the cubs to mate with the mother or for territorial threat, turned foster father.
"The mother had passed away due to an illness, and we were taking care of the cubs with the help of the forest department. But when the cubs turned four months, the male tiger suddenly developed maternal instincts and began tending to them. He would play with them. It was one of the most surreal moments we witnessed," he says.
Other stories include how a man-eating tusker was tamed and is part of safaris today. The show documents the training process of the jumbo at Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh. The show, despite its completion, was on the backburner due to Alter's death last year. But, Raheja says he's happy that the actor spent his last few years working on a subject that was so dear to him. "When you see the show, you'll a get a sense of Tom's passion," he says.
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