Shekar Dattatri is a pioneer of wildlife and conservation filmmaking in India, having started his filmmaking journey in 1983 as 'Assistant Director' on 'Snakebite', a dramatised documentary. His meticulously crafted 'blue chip' natural history films have entertained, inspired and informed people around the world, while his hard hitting conservation films have helped bring about tangible change in India.
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 documentary 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 first 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. In 1991, he was also awarded an Inlaks Scholarship to spend eight months working with Oxford Scientific Films, which, back then, was one the most innovative producers of natural history and science programmes for television.
Subsequently, Shekar worked with some of the world’s leading natural history broadcasters and production houses, including Channel 4, UK, the Discovery Channel, National Geographic Television, the BBC Natural History Unit, Natural History New Zealand and Icon Films. Some of his films as a cameraman and/or Producer include, The 'Wild India' series (Channel 4, UK; freelance wildlife cameraman), ‘The Good Snake’ (National Geographic Television, Producer and Cameraman), ‘Nagarahole – Tales from An Indian Jungle’ (Discovery Channel; Producer, cameraman and writer), 'Land of the Tiger' (A BBC NHU series; freelance cameraman on four episodes) and ‘Monsoon – India’s God of Life’ (Part of the 'Wild Asia' Series by Discovery, NHK and NHNZ; Producer and cameraman).
He has also served on the final juries of several prestigious wildlife and environmental film festivals and photo competitions, including the Japan Wildlife Film Festival (2007), Wildscreen, UK (2008 and 2020), the Sondrio film festival on Parks and Protected Areas, Italy (2008), Vatavaran Wildlife and Environment Film Festival, India, Sanctuary Asia Wildlife Photography Awards (several editions), Nature in Focus and Wildlife Photographer of the Year, 2020.
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. However, despite being at the peak of his international career, Shekar decided to move away from television documentaries in 2000, to try and make a difference on the ground through conservation filmmaking. Working closely with both government and conservation organisations in India since then, Shekar has been using his skills as a Producer, Director, Cameraman and writer to make films that can make a difference. One of these, ‘Mindless Mining – The Tragedy of Kudremukh’ (2001), played a pivotal role in putting an end to a vast and extremely damaging open cast iron-ore mining operation within a rainforest National Park in India's Western Ghats.
In 2004 he won a Rolex Award for Enterprise, from Rolex of Geneva, for his work in conservation filmmaking, and in 2008, the Edberg Award, conferred by the Rolf 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, India's most authoritative conservation portal.