BENGALURU : Man eater’’, “Avni”, “T1”, “T12”. The big cat has been labelled enough. Sherni, starring Vidya Balan in the lead role as a Deputy Conservator of Forest (DyCF), is a fictional account of how the problematic tigress was captured in Pandharkawada, a city in the Yavatmal district of Maharashtra.
The infamous killing of the tigress, known as T1, by a private hunter has been a matter of public discourse for a long time. However, some believe that Sherni does not provide the right insights into the matter, though it is considered a work of fiction. Take, for instance, Dr Prayag HS, an assistant professor at Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fisheries Sciences University (KVAFSU), who was a part of the mission to capture the tigress.
He now wants to retell the story from his perspective and that of those who were part of mission to save T1, like then DyCFO KM Abharna, wildlife activists Dr Sarita Subramaniam, Dr Jerryl Banait and other stakeholders. He is currently working on a script to do this through a film or documentary.
“I had already worked on a synopsis after returning from the capture mission in 2018. I did this along with director Islahuddin NS and I had registered with the Screenwriters Association. It did not take off because of a producer who wanted it to be a commercial fiction story. I am making a fresh script that will be made into a movie or a documentary series,” says Prayag, who is also the executive producer of two Kannada films, David and Saddu Vicharane Nadeyuttide.
He believes the film and the true event are different versions. “My bone of contention to the story is whether it was really T1 (Avni) that killed the villagers,” says Prayag, who adds, “The forensic tests were goofed up from the first case of death of a villager.”
Prayag’s version of the film will include the different reports of forensic tests that led to identifying two different sexes of the same man-eating tiger - a male and the female - which is missing in the film. He also wants to focus on how a private hunter was given priority over other experts in the mission to kill the tiger.
The script is also expected to focus on the fact that the tigress is ‘not a man-eater’.
“The tigress was lactating. Moreover, it is not a man-eater until proven scientifically instead of circumstantial evidence. Because the tigress hunted every weekend after a long gap. This means it also fed on other natural things in the forest. However, it was a problematic tiger,” says Prayag.
Dr Jerryl Banait, a Nagpur-based wildlife activist who named the tiger ‘Avni’, says “When an animal feeds on the flesh of a human, it can be proved as man-eater only through DNA tests. Interestingly, out of the 12 killings, only three were considered as carnivore acts and only one killing was suspected to be of the tigress Avni,” he explains.