Kannada filmmaker-actor Rishab Shetty has turned narrator for Wild Karnataka, a documentary made by Bangalore-based award-winning filmmakers and wildlife photographers Amoghavarsha JS and Kalyan Varma.
Wild Karnataka was the first documentary on wild animals to get a theatrical release. It was released in cinemas in January this year and ran in theaters for 50 days. Now Wild Karnataka is set to premiere on various channels of Discovery in multiple languages, including Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. The documentary will debut on Discovery Plus app at 6 am on June 5, and premiere on Discovery, Discovery HD, DTamil and Animal Planet at 8 pm on the same day.
In an exclusive conversation with indianexpress.com, Rishab Shetty discussed his admiration for this project and the extent of his involvement to further the reach of the documentary.
Excerpts from the conversation.
Can you tell us about the extent of your involvement in the Wild Karnataka documentary?
The complete credit for Wild Karnataka goes to Amoghavarsha and Kalyan Varma and their team. They both have worked on this project for about four years. Day and night, they have shot across the forests of Karnataka with the help of the forest department officials. I was shown a few sample clips from the documentary by an editor friend who has also worked on the project. I was very impressed and got in touch with Amogh and Kalyan. I saw the teaser which had the narration of Sir David Attenborough. I knew that I couldn’t match his legendary style. So I tried to do it in my own way. People should never go for comparison. I had the script written in Kannada and I narrated it. I want to take it to more people in Karnataka by releasing it in cinemas. It is a very knowledgeable documentary. I want this information to reach children, especially those studying in Kannada medium. And that’s why I got involved with this project. I will distribute this documentary in Kannada in multiplexes and single screens at a low cost enabling children to watch this documentary. Earlier, we had plans to get other senior actors for the narration. But, Amogh suggested I do it.
Did you help write the script for Kannada?
About 50 days after the release of the English version of Wild Karnataka in cinemas, the lockdown was imposed. I had already narrated for the Kannada version. But, after the lockdown was relaxed, and I returned to Bangalore, I reworked the script with the help of my co-writer Trilok Trivikrama. I made a few suggestions and he rewrote the script. I thought we could add some human emotions (in this wildlife documentary). I thought it will help the documentary to connect more with the audience. Everyone on the team enjoyed doing it. And I was very happy when Discovery came forward to distribute this documentary in four languages (Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi). It feels great to know that a project that I worked on will broadcast on the Discovery channel, which I grew up watching.
When you say adding ‘human emotions’, what do you mean?
I really enjoyed the original version with Sir David Attenborough’s narration. It has some magic in it. But, when you are doing voice-overs, you get new ideas watching some visuals. For example, there is a sequence involving a frog and there is another one about draco lizards and they play out like romantic scenes. While watching them, I thought we could highlight the romance by making changes to the script. I wanted to also add a feel-good factor to the narration. No matter what you do, at the end of the day, people will tweet that I was not as good as Sir David Attenborough. So I have tried to make the best out of the opportunity.
Do you get involved in scriptwriting in all the projects you work on?
It depends on the people I work with. If the directors or the technicians seek my inputs, I give them. For example, while I was doing Bell Bottom, Jayatheertha had given me a free hand. He welcomed all my suggestions. He took some of them and he dropped others. It was a friendly atmosphere and everyone had liberty. Even in this project, Amogh had told me to suggest changes. I dubbed at the studio of Ricky Kej. Amogh and Ricky were my first audience and they enjoyed it very much. I used to observe their reactions and draw my conclusions about what was working and what was not.
What is the message that you want people to take from this documentary?
Firstly, this documentary is about wildlife in Karnataka, so I wanted this to have a Kannada version. As I said earlier, I wanted to take it to children. The children of this generation see wild animals either in animated movies like Lion King or in a zoo. This documentary will create awareness about the wildlife in Karnataka and the efforts of our forest department and conservationists. And I am happy that this documentary will reach a much bigger audience with the help of Discovery.
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