Ranthambore’s ‘Tiger Queen’ dethroned by daughter

By Sanjeeb Baruah, IANS
Tuesday, September 14, 2010

NEW DELHI - Ranthambore Fort in the heart of tiger territory seems to be prime real estate that every tiger envies. Machli, the big cat, had ruled it for over a decade till her daughter Satara threw her out in a heartless battle for supremacy.

This moving tale of rivalry and betrayal in a tiger family in Rajasthan’s Ranthambore National Park was brilliantly captured by India’s ace cinematographer S. Nallamuthu in his documentary “Tiger Queen”. This is India’s first full length wildlife film shot in a high definition (HD) format, says Nallamuthu.

“The idea of ‘Tiger Queen’ came from the fact that I wanted to make a film that was strong on emotions and drama, and not just another save-the-tiger film or how they walk, mate, sit and eat!” Nallamuthu told IANS.

“This film is as real as it gets. It’s a chapter from the everyday life of a tiger and how jealousy and greed rule the animal world too!” he said.

As the film shows, Machli’s daughters Satara, Athara and Unnis, on the verge of adulthood, are the recent ones among the generations she had raised.

Machli has fiercely guarded her lakeside property for 11 years, even from her own cubs who were always forced to leave the place when they reached adulthood.

However, this time things are not to go in her favour. Machli faces a mortal threat not from outside but from within the family. Her daughter Satara, the dominant of the three, has made her intentions clear - she wants the prized possession.

Satara devises a plan to get rid of her mother and siblings. She first pushes her sisters out, leaving them to fend for themselves away from the safety of their mother.

Satara’s final target is her mother - and this goal she accomplishes quite easily. Her brute strength is more than Machli’s old age can endure and the latter surrenders without a fight.

Distraught Machli is left to salvage her former pride in isolation in another part of the park. The queen of Ranthambore Fort is ousted.

Satara’s victory too is shortlived, as Athais, a young dominant male, befriends her and eventually takes control of the fort. The film, of course, ends with a final showdown between Satara and Athais which ended the 12-year reign of the fort by Machli and her family.

Satara’s sibling, Athara, had been recently translocated to the Sariska National Park, also in Rajasthan, as part of the government’s tiger reintroduction programme.

“This is the second big full length film on the same family in Ranthambore. It was about seven or eight years ago when they first featured on the BBC series ‘Land of the Tiger’. They filmed Machli in her prime,” Nallamuthu said.

“HD is the acceptable format today. It’s cheaper than film and the quality is as good, and better than any format used till date. Yes, it is expensive as compared to a digi beta, but then if you want to make a film for international telecast, you have to match their standards. ‘Tiger Queen’ thus is the very first indigenous HD wildlife documentary out of India!”

A longer version of the film is also being planned for theatres worldwide by Nallamuthu’s production house, Grey Films India Private Limited, which has provided over 100 hours of programming content and high quality technical support for a broad range of genres.

The film was telecast worldwide on Nat Geo Wild.

His other recent production “Tripping on a Bicycle”, an English feature film, directed and shot by him on HD, was the official selection at the Palm Beach International Film Festival 2010 and Boston International Film Festival 2010.

He also shot “Pairon Talle”, a film directed by Sidharth Srinivasan that will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival later this month.

(Sanjeeb Baruah can be contacted at sanjeeb.b@ians.in)

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