Film set monkeys around with Hesarghatta grasslands

Kanteerava studio leases out area, petitioners say it violates High Court order

July 31, 2013 12:46 am | Updated August 03, 2016 08:01 pm IST - Bangalore:

VULNERABLE GRASSLAND: This set under construction here is to be the backdrop of an outdoor song sequence for the film Mythri.

VULNERABLE GRASSLAND: This set under construction here is to be the backdrop of an outdoor song sequence for the film Mythri.

A colossal plaster of Paris statue installed on a five-foot concrete foundation, a large wooden stage and bits of packing foam everywhere: this should not be the scene at the Hesarghatta grasslands, at least not after the Karnataka High Court order that indicated that the ecosystem be left undisturbed.

But this large film set, under construction here, will be the backdrop for an outdoor song sequence for a Puneet Rajkumar-starrer Mythri . The Sree Kanteerava Studio Ltd., a State government undertaking, has leased out the area to the film crew for Rs. 9,000 a day, say officials at the studio.

The structure violates the High Court order of January 14, which called for a “status quo” to be maintained by all parties, including the Kanteerava Studio (a respondent in the case), say members of the Arkavathi and Kumudvathy River Rejuvenation Trust, who had filed a PIL (public interest litigation) petition in 2011 to protect the grassland from development.

The PIL had challenged a proposal to create a >theme park and film city in Hesarghatta , the last surviving grassland around the city, and described the proposal as “illogical, unscientific, fanciful” and “detrimental” to the unique habitat, which is home to jackals, foxes and 133 species of birds — including one of India’s most threatened species, the Lesser Florican.

M. Ravikumar, managing director of Kanteerava Studio, told The Hindu the structure was “not permanent” and that the excavations made for the foundation would be “filled”. “The grass will grow back in no time,” he said, adding that he was not aware of the High Court order. “Hesarghatta has resorts and hotels. How is a film set any more damaging?” There were no guidelines prescribed for film shoots, Mr. Ravikumar said.

The Sree Kanteerava Studio was set up in 1970 and got rights over 300 acres of Hesarghatta land that was originally with the now-defunct Karnataka Film Development Corporation.

The film set reflects a total disregard to the court order, says Mahesh Bhat, photographer and trustee of the Arkavathy trust. And this is not the first time after the court order that the studio has leased out the land for an elaborate — and potentially destructive — film set, he adds. Earlier this month too, the grassland was the venue for enormous movie sets constructed for shooting Bajrangi , says Mr. Bhat.

Tree planting resumes

This, however, is only one of the many forces at work in these grasslands.

The Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), for instance, has resumed planting cherry and mahogany trees on what should essentially remain a grassland, despite the >uproar it created among naturalists and birdwatchers a couple of years ago when the Rs. 140-cr project was launched. Some 10 lakh trees were planted in 2011–12. BDA Deputy Conservator of Forests B. Jayaram told The Hindu the 10,000 saplings were being planted to replace the ones that had perished.

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