City-based Suresh Elamon and K.S. Madhu win awards for their films at the first National Science Film Festival in Chennai

We've always known that cinema and the city share an endearing relationship. What makes this fact more interesting is that some of the lesser-known filmmakers who live here, are making a difference to the environment through their short films.

At the recently concluded National Science Film Festival that was held as part of the 98th Indian Science Congress in Chennai, there were two Thiruvananthapuram-based film makers – Suresh Elamon and K.S. Madhu – who won awards for their films on science and technology.

The festival – the first of its kind in India – could be seen as a path-breaking initiative in the efforts to promote science in simple and appealing ways, especially among young minds.

The State Institute of Educational Technology (SIET) Kerala that produced Elamon's films is evidently euphoric at this news. At this festival, it was Ants All Around Us and Butterflies by Elamon that won the Silver Beaver Award and the Bronze Beaver Award respectively, in separate categories.

Awards for SIET

A jubilant Babu Sebastian, Director, SIET Kerala, notes that including these, SIET Kerala has won 32 national awards out of which, “60 per cent contribution has been from Elamon.”

SIET Kerala was the “only agency to compete in three categories and to win accolades in all three,” he says. Besides the Beaver awards, Birds and their Homes from SIET, directed by Elamon, was screened in the Panorama section. At a festival in which more than 50 national and international entries participated, this was a “huge recognition” for SIET Kerala, adds Babu Sebastian.

For Elamon, awards are not new, given that the films he has been making for SIET on Kerala's wildlife and natural resources have been winning accolades at most national short film festivals and contests.

Elamon who gave up a secure career to pursue his passion for wildlife and photography is a well-known environmentalist in the city. He says that awards such as these are definitely a good sign as they sensitise the public to the environment we live in.

As a naturalist, he feels the wildlife/science cinema culture “is certainly catching up. We have a few national level wildlife & environment film festival like CMC VATAVARAN which is attracting a lot of such film makers to showcase their works,” says Elamon.

Knowing Elamon, it is easy to conclude that it is perhaps primarily the joy of working with butterflies, ants or even reptiles that drives his movie projects. An unforgettable experience he stills cherishes is when he sighted the legendary Travancore Evening Brown Butterfly. “When I heard about the possible existence of such a butterfly in Kerala, there weren't anyone in the world who had actually seen the butterfly. So it was considered the rarest butterfly species in India. Then, during a photo documentation project of the butterflies of Periyar Tiger Reserve in 1991, I was very fortunate to come across one or two specimens of this butterfly in the Reserve.”

On wonders if rewarding moments such as this would be much more fulfilling to a lover of nature than awards or accolades.

Elamon, an admirer of wildlife photographs taken by old-timers like M. Krishnan, T. N.A. Perumal and Lok Wan Tho, hopes that policy-makers would take note and work with naturalists in the efforts to save our resources.

He is happy that there is a growing awareness among the younger generation about the importance of saving our habitats and the biodiversity they harbor. “But they are not the people who rule the land! Take the case of the tiger and its future in India. Some recent authentic reports tell us that one tiger is poached in India every two weeks!”

A small army of environment warriors is fighting this battle. The question is how many among us would want to join them.