Last time we went on the “Kaziranga Trail”. I have been thinking ever since, why not continue this journey. Why not explore more of our beautiful nature, its forests and wildlife, en route the children’s movies.
Therefore, continuing on this nature trail and conservation tales, let’s take a leap from the lush green forests of Assam and go west towards the beautiful island of Mauritius.
THE FAME OF MAURITIUS:
Mauritius is a tiny island situated in the Indian Ocean to the east of Madagascar. Besides natural beauty, this island is probably most famous for a bird which inspired the phrase “Dead as a Dodo” (widely popularised by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland- 1865). Dodo was a flightless bird endemic to Mauritius. They were also said to be quite trusting in nature. These attributes ultimately became the reason of their extinction, as they were neither equipped with proper defences to external threats nor wise enough to realise them. Humans killed them easily by clubbing them and invasive species like pigs brought by humans devoured on their eggs. They went extinct around 1660’s. Dodos’ extinction is said to have been one of the earliest to be fully documented.
The unfortunate Dodo
You must be wondering whether this is a post on a children’s movie or a lesson in extinction of species. Well in a way it’s both. Dodo’s story (sad story) is just an example of how extinctions have been brought about or rather rapidly being brought about with human interference and actions.
So today we are going to talk about another such species, also endemic to the island of Mauritius which was almost on the verge of extinction some three decades back.
THE PINK PIGEON:
A Pink Pigeon
Pink Pigeon is a species endemic to the island of Mauritius. Endemic species, especially those restricted to an island, tend to have their own problems. Due to the limited geographical sphere their food habits are also limited. Sometimes they do not have proper defence mechanisms to counter any external threats. This was the case with Pink Pigeon too. It is limited to Mauritius so its food consisted mainly from the vegetation naturally found there. Therefore, with the destruction of the maximum natural forests of the country and introduction of new trees its food sources became sparse. Humans, who landed there, also introduced animals like rats to the island. Together with what I can call only as food shortage, and destruction of nests and eggs by rats, monkeys and cats, the number of Pink Pigeons began to decline.
Pink Pigeon was severely threatened by 1970’s and by 1980’s only about 12 of the species were left. However, a constant effort by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and other organisations like Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust their numbers now stand around 500 or so.
CONSERVATION AND THE MOVIE:
The movie we are going to discuss here has been inspired from this conservation programme.It depicts in its own way the different aspects of such conservation.
If you type the words “Operation Pink Pigeon” in search engines like Google or Bing the top most suggestions on the first page will be filled by this movie’s name, namely:- “Ankur, Maina Aur Kabootar” (1989).
The seeds of the film were sown when some officials of the CFSI went to Mauritius for a Film Festival. Remember “Niyog Mama” from the movie “Rhino” in my last post. His name is Mukesh Sharma and he has worked with the CFSI as a Production Officer in many movies for over a decade and has also worked with Doordarshan and National Films Division. When he learnt about the efforts to save the endangered bird, the idea for the movie evolved. He was the Producer in charge for this movie which won the Best Children’s Film Award at the National Film Awards in 1990.
Ankur Maina Aur Kabootar– was a joint production between India and Mauritius. The movie was completely filmed on the beautiful locations of the island nation with some artists from the country appearing too. It also has the distinct credit of having kick-started the film making industry in Mauritius.
The film is directed by Madan Bawaria. He has directed many advertisement films and worked as assistant director to directors like Basu Chatterjee.
The film stars veteran actors like M. K. Raina, Savita Bajaj and Paintal among others.
NOW- about Ankur, Maina Aur Kabootar:
Finally let’s come to our film.
The film begins on a ship where cries of some people bring out two men and a boy rushing to the dining area. They see a group of scared people staring at an even more scared bird sitting on a chair.
The older of the two men reprimands the passengers. He tells them not to scare the bird. “Jo khud sari duniya se darte hon who kisi aur ko kya darayenge” (He is himself scared of the world, how can he scare others).
Saying this he carries the bird and goes out. Once outside, he questions the boy how did the bird come out from the cage in the first place. The other man saves the boy by saying that they should first take care of the bird, he is really scared.
After this the little boy introduces himself to us. He is Ankur Sinha (Master Himanshu) and the old man who was scolding the passengers is his Dadaji (Grandfather)- Dr. Bhagirath Prasad Sinha (M. K. Raina), an ornithologist. The other man is Gangadeen Kaka (Paintal) his Dadaji’s right hand. They all are going to Mauritius where Dr. Sinha is going for some important work.
Coming to Mauritius:
On reaching, Dr. Sinha and others are welcomed by officials in Mauritius.
By now we know that Dr. Sinha is a renowned ornithologist from India and has come here to work along with his Mauritian counterparts in the programme being carried out to save the endangered Pink Pigeon of Mauritius. Dr. Sharma is one such official and his daughter Maina and Ankur immediately strike a friendship.
Dr. Sinha, along with Ankur & Gangadeen Kaka, takes up station at a village near to the Black River Area Forests, the Pink Pigeon’s habitat. Ankur is really excited. They are also provided with “Manilal”, a local, by the department to help them during the stay.
When the three arrive at their place of stay curious onlookers from the village gather around. Among them is a strange looking lady (Savita Bajaj). Ankur gets curious and asks Manilal about her. Manilal tells him that she is Madam Zozo. She cures people in the village but also does magic. Once she turned a man into a rat. It is clear that everyone in the village including Manilal is scared of her.
Dr. Sinha immediately begins his work and has a meeting to plan on the ways and methods for saving Pink Pigeon. There are also some villagers in the meeting with whom Dr. Sinha shares his concern. The condition is really bad and Dr. Sinha is worried that if immediate efforts are not carried out these birds are going to get extinct just like previous one’s on the island- Dodos, Blue Pigeons & Black Parrots.
Several methods like a ground survey of the forests and an aerial survey afterwards are carried out to locate the habitat of Pink Pigeon.
Once the location is discovered Dr. Sinha goes to the forest with Manilal to determine the exact reasons for declining numbers of the pink pigeons. They find out that some monkeys around the pigeon’s habitat are destroying its nest as well eating their eggs. It is clear that given the current condition the birds will not be able to survive in the forests.
The conservationists now have to plan for their captive breeding. But to do that the birds have to be captured first. Dr. Sharma suggest taking help of a Scout & Guide group which has arrived on a trek there. An expedition is carried out by Dr. Sinha, Dr. Sharma, Ankur, Maina along with the Scout & Guide group to capture the pigeons. But they are not met with success.
Finally, Dr. Sinha comes up with another plan for capturing the pink pigeon. The plan is a success and with two pigeons on board the breeding programme begins.
Ankur & Madam Zozo:
Meanwhile, Ankur has been busy peeking inside Madam Zozo’s house and following her to the graveyard etc., (information supplied by Manilal has only raised his curiosity and he is eager to know Madam Zozo). With time he strikes a friendship with her.
On the work front, the programme is now going quite well and everyone is really happy when Ankur spots a couple of eggs laid by the pigeons. But this also means extra precaution and care has to be taken. As for a few days a cat (belonging to Madam Zozo) has been trying to make an exotic lunch of the pigeons. So, Ankur who has been invited to Dr. Sharma’s house and spend a couple of days there is reluctant to go. But Dr. Sinha sends him there anyways.
By the way Madam Zozo is not much happy with the conservation team coming to the village. She tells the villagers that no one should interfere in nature’s work in any manner.
In these couple of days however something unfortunate occurs. The uncontrolled cat, a little spat with Madam Zozo, some things said in the heat of the moment and the next day the cat and both the pigeons are dead.
What will now happen to the conservation programme of Pink Pigeons? Is there a way to make it a success or does the conservation team have to begin all over, or give up completely?
And what about Madam Zozo? Does she change her beliefs? Can Madam Zozo’s friendship with Ankur and her care for him change the attitude of others towards her?
You will get all the answers when you watch this National Award winning movie.
Recommended For- Age group: 10 years minimum- maximum age no bar.
In my opinion, children above 10 or 11 years of age will fully be able understand and appreciate this film and its message. The story is quite simply told but for children below that age to grasp the meaning of everything being done and the somewhat slow pace can be trying. Even I found it a little boring when I first watched it on Doordarshan. I was 8 or 9 years old then.
But when the kids are a little older and have studied about environment in their text books, it is easier to teach them to value nature as well the efforts of people trying to conserve it. Because the pains, patience and time required for these efforts, even in saving one specie, is quite well depicted in the movie.
The titular character of Ankur is a way of depicting the connection that children can and do readily form with our nature and environment as well as people.
Are there any movies about such conservation programmes that you are aware of? Do let me know?
Some picturesque views of Mauritius as shown in the movie:
DISCLAIMER: The screenshots, stills and videos from the movie are included here only for the purpose of information, entertainment and propagation of children’s cinema. The copyright over the film rests with the owners/ producers of the movie.