Chennai

From the lost world

A new documentary discovers long-forgotten treasures in the fossil-rich district of Ariyalur

Mention Palaeontology and most people think Ross Geller, the popular character from the 90s television series, Friends. But even in that series, his profession was a lesser-known one, and had other characters in the show referring to him as “the dinosaur guy.” In 1993, Speilberg’s Jurassic Park elicited much interest in dinosaurs and the study of fossils across the world. Now, over a decade later, in India, a Chennai-based filmmaker, Vaishnavi Sundar, has come out with a documentary on fossil-rich Ariyalur, a district in Tamil Nadu.

The documentary, Unearthing The Treasures Of Ariyalur, follows two palaeontology enthusiasts, Nirmal Rajah and Anurag Amin, as they discover long-forgotten treasures and retell non-recorded history. “About 99.9 per cent of all species that ever existed on this watery planet are now dead and gone,” reveals the documentary. It then goes on to explain the cause and outcome of this phenomenon. The documentary is not just informative for enthusiasts, but also educative for students interested in the subject. 

“We wanted children to start radically rethinking their acumen for science by diverting it to niche areas such as geology and palaeontology. There is a lack of information in mainstream academia about these topics. And while there are articles, there are no films,” explains filmmaker Vaishnavi, who also claims that this is the first documentary on fossils in India.

“Although there are several major fossil sites in India, and some sensational palaeontological discoveries — Rajasaurus, Sanajeh indicus, Indosaurus, Sivapithecus — have been made, palaeontology never took off in this country. Plus, we don’t have many science communicators like the West has, or organisations to support them. These are the major reasons why we had to wait so long for a documentary on fossils in India,” says Nirmal.

The project, a brainchild of Nirmukta, has been produced by Lime Soda Films. The 26-minute film, supported by visual effects, is easy to understand for those who have a fledgling interest in the subject. “We have made it public because we want everybody to access, share and screen it, without any restrictions. It is sad that this information wasn’t brought to life for so many years; it will be quite silly and counter productive to have restrictions on watching it now that it is made,” says Vaishnavi. 

The documentary can be viewed at nirmukta.com



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Printable version | Aug 1, 2020 12:27:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/from-the-lost-world/article8275784.ece

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