Shekar Dattatri is one of the pioneers of wildlife and conservation filmmaking in India, having started his filmmaking journey in 1983. His meticulously crafted natural history films as well as his hard-hitting conservation films have inspired and informed people all over India and around the world.
Shekar’s lifelong fascination with wildlife began at the age of 13, when he joined the famous Madras Snake Park as a student-volunteer in 1976. This led to nature photography and, subsequently, to filmmaking. His first film, ‘A Cooperative for Snake Catchers’, won the National Award in 1987 for Best Scientific Film. His next two documentaries, 'Seeds of Hope', and 'Silent Valley - An Indian Rainforest' were also National Award winners.
‘Silent Valley', completed in 1991, also won several international awards, including a Special Jury Award at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival in America, a top honor at the Sondrio International Film Festival on Parks and Protected Areas and Best Nature Film Award at the Tokyo Earthvision Festival. The same year, he was awarded an Inlaks Scholarship to spend eight months working with Oxford Scientific Films in the UK which, at the time, was one the most respected companies in the world of natural history and science programming for television.
Since then, Shekar has worked with some of the world’s leading broadcasters of wildlife programmes, including the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and the BBC Natural History Unit. Some of his films as a producer/cameraman include, ‘The Good Snake’, ‘Nagarahole – Tales from An Indian Jungle’, ‘Monsoon – India’s God of Life’, and ‘The Ridley’s Last Stand’.
In 1998, the UK trade magazine, Television Business International, rated him as one of the top ten rising stars of wildlife filmmaking in the world. He has also served on the final juries of several prestigious wildlife and environmental film festivals, including Wildscreen, UK, the Sondrio film festival on Parks and Protected Areas, Italy, the Japan Wildlife Film Festival, and the international section of the Vatavaran Wildlife and Environment Film Festival, India.
In 2004 he won a Rolex Award for Enterprise, from Rolex of Geneva, for his work in conservation filmmaking. In 2008 he won the Edberg Award, conferred by the Edberg Foundation in Sweden. From 2007 to 2010 he was a Member of the National Board for Wildlife, a high level advisory body of the Government of India. He is the co-founder of Conservation India, an online portal to enable conservation action.
Moving away from television documentaries in 2000, and working closely with conservation NGOs in India, Shekar has been using his skills as a filmmaker to make hard-hitting advocacy films on conservation issues. One of these films, ‘Mindless Mining – The Tragedy of Kudremukh’, helped bring an end to extremely damaging iron ore mining within a rainforest National Park in south India.
Besides filmmaking, Shekar also writes popular articles on wildlife, conservation and filmmaking. He is the author of three children’s books, ‘The Riddle of the Ridley’, ‘Lai Lai the Baby Elephant’ and ‘Ira the Little Dolphin’. He lives in Chennai, south India, and can be contacted via email.