BBC Natural History Unit captures the four-year-long journey of the Bandhavgarh National park’s tigress Raj Bhera
Dhruv Singh, the production consultant of Dynasties, talks about shooting the show in India, the challenges of filming tigers, and what Sir David Attenborough is most afraid of.
Amidst the vast dense expanse of the Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh, was a small group of people setting up cameras in an effort to film the tiger. In a collaboration between the BBC Natural History Unit (UK), the Indian forest authorities and a helpful few localities, Dynasties, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, captures the four-year-long journey of the park’s tigress, Raj Bhera. Their Indian contact for the expedition was Dhruv Singh, a filmmaker and nature conservationist, with a story to share.
Singh was an active participant in the production of the tiger episode in Dynasties (2018), a nature documentary series on five vulnerable or endangered species — the chimpanzee, the Emperor penguin, the lion, the tiger and the African wild dog.
The episode focuses on the story of a tigress bringing up her cubs in the wild forests of Bandhavgarh. Vital in liaising with the Forest Department and the local community in Bandhavgarh, Singh also spent close to four years on the field filming with the production crew. “Wildlife has to be taken to people,” says the 46-year-old.
Singh says it could take up to 20 days of shooting to get two minutes of usable footage on camera. “I think by the time you become a good wildlife cameraman, patience is part of your life. Not to say that it’s not frustrating, I think all good wildlife cameraman have come to terms that they are only going to get one good sighting out of 10 days of visiting the park.”
Gear up Modern equipment (like the Red camera used to film the show) has really helped wildlife filmmakers enhance their accessibility and speed. “Earlier, operating cameras were cumbersome, and a big part of filming in the jungle used to be just looking after the camera. More recently, with the stabilisation and small cameras that are silent, that has helped us hugely. Now, sitting in the back of the jeep we can do a very steady shot without a tripod. We can even handhold a camera,” says the filmmaker who hails from Madhya Pradesh.
To Singh, tigers are a representation of “everything”. “A tiger is clearly a representation of a wilderness experience. The tiger isn’t just an animal in front of you, it’s the fear that the deer feels when it sees a tiger, the excitement that tourists have. The tiger just means so many more things than just the animal,” he says before signing off. Watch Dynasties on July 29, 1 pm onwards on Sony BBC Earth
Tiger: Spy In The Jungle
Having a first-person experience into the life of a tiger while mounted on the back of an elephant is rather unheard of. BBC has done just that, and with the help of a host of new spycams, we can now look into the life-cycle of a tiger – from playful cubs to adolescents and ultimately to hunting adults.
On July 29. 1 pm onwards. On Sony BBC Earth
With help from Kailash Sankhala, the Indian naturalist and conservationist also famously known as the Tiger-Man of India, this documentary captures the legacy of tigers. The documentary hopes to shed light on the history of the Kanha Forest Reserve and enlighten the viewers to save tigers for a better future.
On July 29, 8:00 pm onwards.
On Animal Planet
Problem of plenty?
After having followed the tiger conservation movement for 15 years, Singh feels that the numbers have definitely gone up, since the 2006 tiger crisis. “We couldn’t be further from a crisis. The park and the government authorities — they have made such a huge effort in tiger conservation and it has paid off. Today the problem isn’t tiger numbers, the tiger numbers have gone up greatly, the problem is we need space for tigers.”