Mangerbani,the last forest on the Aravalli foothills,just off the Faridabad-Gurgaon highway,is a lost world in many ways. Literally meaning a forest of the Manger village,this green expanse is home to three villages,fascinating wildlife,a forest deity named Gudariya Baba and some age-old cures and curses. Now,a new short film,The Lost Forest,travels through its shady paths and reveals a sad truth the forest could soon be the site of new highrises and gated colonies.
If Mangerbani disappears,it will affect not just the villagers faith,but will jolt its wildlife too, says filmmaker Ishani K Dutta,44,indicating the fact that Gudariya Baba is seen more as the forest guardian than a deity. The villagers also have an age-old belief that a curse will befall anyone who cuts up the trees one of the reasons that Mangerbani is the only unfragmented habitat for wildlife in the NCR.
The 20-minute film reveals how Mangerbani is full of Dhau trees. If nibbled by cattle,this plant spreads out on the ground like creepers,and,if left untouched,it shoots up into a tree. The camera then pans to the people residing in its villages Baliyawas,Manger and Banwari who have been fighting to keep the bulldozers away. Their fight,adds Dutta,also made her take up cudgels. The Lost Forest,which was screened at IRRAD auditorium,Gurgaon,recently,was followed by signing of a petition against construction on the sacred grove. Even though I contacted the NGOs,activists,archaeologist and ground water specialists among others for my film,it was the stories of villagers that hit me, she says,Everybody was fighting individually,including the villagers,so I thought that,as a filmmaker,I could present the issue in a collective manner.
Dutta first heard of Mangerbani while making a film on traditional conservation methods in 2009. She returned there with her camera and crew last year. Mangerbani overwhelmed her with its isolated beauty,compelling traditions and pressing issues. She informs that the film is far from complete,as details of developments are constantly added to it. She attempted to get government forest officials on camera but they refused to comment. We are waiting for some response or verdict from the Haryana government to conclude the film. Till then,theres no stopping, says Dutta.
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