How Animal Planet's newest series On The Brink is changing the way you see wildlife in India
Did you know, endangered species of animals like the slender loris can be found in Karnataka? Or that the red panda can be found in Arunachal Pradesh? Identifying, filming, and bringing to light endangered species like these and more is a new TV show, On The Brink, directed by Delhi-based Akanksha Sood Singh. Joining her as one among five is Bangalore-based cinematographer Sugandhi Gadadhar, in addition to an almost all-women crew, who have travelled the length and breadth of India to showcase the incredible diversity of animals on the brink of extinction and hopefully create awareness about the need for conservation.
The first season, a four-episode series will see explorer Malaika Vaz travelling to Pangchen Valley in Arunachal Pradesh to spot the rare red panda, the palm-sized primate slender loris in Karnataka’s Tumkur area, the Bengal Tigers in Ranthambore and the fishing cats in West Bengal. From filming in inaccessible locations and in extreme weather, conditions, the team had to brave it all.
Having worked on wildlife documentaries like Manas – Return of the Giants on elephants, India’s Wandering Lions, and The Pad Piper, wildlife conservation has always been on the agenda for National Award-winning director Akanksha Sood Singh. She had been exploring wildlife in India for over 15 years, but the research for On The Brink started a little over a year ago, Akanksha tells us. Taking the cue from the WWF Living Planet Report of 2016 and knowing that sixth mass extinction of species is underway, the 37-year-old, with her team from the independent production company, The Gaia People, shortlisted eight animals for the first two seasons from a list of over 50 endangered species in India.
Filming wildlife is never an easy task, especially because it depends on the subject, which in this case are rarely spotted species through many landscapes.“Each episode was filmed in a different location and since the window was very short, visibility of the animals was a major hardship we had to overcome,” Akanksha tells us, as she recounts the difficulties of filming tigers during the drought season, in various states, earlier this year. She adds that unexpected encounters with men on motorcycles with guns, getting bitten by 40 leeches and even rapid climatic changes made filming tougher.
Being a cinematographer on the team, 38-year-old Sugandhi Gadadhar said while filming every animal was a challenge, it was the Red Panda in Arunachal Pradesh that was the most fascinating and unique. “In fact, when I came back home post-shooting, my friends did not even know that the red panda existed in India,” she says.
The second season will be telecast in November and will comprise four episodes — which will throw light on the plight of animals like King Cobra in Karnataka's Agumbe, Great Indian Bustard in Rajasthan, the extremely rare purple frog in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore, and the Black Bears of Kashmir. Akanksha is currently in talks for the third season too. “If everything does fall into place, it will feature more than eight animals,” she excitedly says.
On The Brink airs every Monday at 9 pm on Animal Planet India.