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Wild Karnataka Review: A stunning look at the diversity of life in India’s richest habitat- Cinema express

Wild Karnataka Review: A stunning look at the diversity of life in India’s richest habitat

A stunning look at the diversity of life in India’s richest habitat

Published: 17th January 2020
Wild Karnataka 

Karnataka is one of the most important wildlife refuges on earth, David Attenborough tells us in Wild Karnataka. The new Indian natural history documentary is the first of its kind to be shot in Ultra-HD in the country and the first to get a theatrical release here. The story begins in September at the end of the monsoon and goes on through the dry season till the next monsoon arrives to refresh life in the region. It covers a wide range of ecosystems from the rainforests of the Western Ghats to the arid, rocky Deccan Plateau to the jungles and the different waters of the region — the ocean, rivers, ponds, creeks and waterfalls. The sheer beauty of the landscape is jaw-dropping on the big screen.

Directors: Amoghavarsha JS, Kalyan Varma

It isn't just the landscape that is stunning. With Attenborough as our guide, we get to see some of the incredible variety of life in the state of Karnataka. "The Western Ghats creates the most bio-diverse habitat in India. The number of species found here, and nowhere else on earth, rivals that of the Amazon," he says. Sloth bears, king cobras, frogs, hornbills, gray langurs — the list goes on. 

The interactions between and among these different species are riveting. Even the group of friends in my theatre, who seemed to have accidentally walked in expecting an "actual movie" and were rather loudly bemoaning this fact at the beginning, were soon awed into to silence by what was on screen. The kitten of a jungle cat attempting to take on a spectacled cobra; a sambar deer mother fighting off a pack of dhole to save her young; and a group of otters chasing off nothing less than a tiger from their pool, are just some of what this wonderful documentary shows us. And it's not just animals facing off against each other. We also get to see the mating displays of peacocks, frogs, draco lizards (which glide several hundred feet to reach a potential mate), as well as nesting king cobras (whose newly hatched young have to slither away before their mother or siblings eat them) and sloth bear cubs riding on the backs of their mother (something no other bear species does). 

We see all this to sound of a somewhat unusual score. The soundtrack of Wild Karnataka is filled with Indian sounds with a heavy classical music influence. This is a bit jarring in places, but perhaps this is more due to us not being used to such a score in wildlife documentaries. However, in some segments, it works perfectly — the sequence of the crabs on the beach being a good example.

Wild Karnataka is truly a spectacle worthy of being seen in the theatre. It isn't often that we get a chance to watch a documentary like this on the big screen. Here's hoping this is just the beginning and that next time, those friends will buy tickets knowing what they are in for.

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