If Meghna Agnihotri has her way, every river would be teeming with fish, and once a year, film buffs would head north to Ladakh.
The co-founder and director (operations) of the fledgling Ladakh International Film Festival (LIFF) will journey on that way in January, when she and her colleagues launch a ‘Fish Planting’ exercise in the country’s major rivers in the run-up to LIFF 2.
In Kerala to fish for Malayalam films for LIFF and rivers ideal for her project, Meghna took a break from IFFK to speak to Express about ‘fish planting’ and the upcoming second edition of India’s northernmost and ‘highest altitude’ film festival.
The whole idea behind ‘fish planting’ is that fish being scavengers, stocking rivers with them will help clean up India’s polluted rivers, she said. ‘’LIFF is a very much environmentally accountable film festival. We have the snow leopard as our mascot. We want the international community to know how fragile the environment of Ladakh is,’’ she said.
‘’The first edition of LIFF was held in June 2012 and there, we ‘planted’ baby fish and fish eggs in the rivers. Fish is also considered very auspicious in Buddhism, you know. Now we are taking it to the next level,’’ she said. LIFF 2 is slated for July 2013, and for four-five months starting January, Meghna will be engaged with the fish project. ‘’We would like to do it in all the major rivers of the country. You plant trees to create oxygen and you plant fish to clean up rivers,’’ Meghna, who belongs to Delhi, said.
According to her, it’s an inexpensive enterprise and has the potential to garner mass support. There are certain pre-requisites though before you start dropping fish left and right into rivers. ‘’You need to check the texture of the water, its temperature and select local fish varieties that can survive,’’ she said.
Compared to IFFK, LIFF is a small affair now, but Meghna is hopeful about the future.
‘’IFFK has a big image outside. In Ladakh, which is 13,500 ft above sea level, we have just one theatre, but big crowd turned up for LIFF,’’ she said.
LIFF has a Malayali flavour with Shaji N Karun and Santhosh Sivan as patrons and Dr Biju Damodaran, director of ‘Saira’, part of the core team, Meghna said. With a large military presence, Ladakh is otherwise home to a sizable Malayali fauj population. ‘’So there’s a huge DVD market for Malayalam films there,’’ she says with a chuckle.