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PM Modi to feature on Man vs Wild tonight, a show not as ‘wild’ as it claims to be

Man vs Wild has been dogged by controversy, with Bear Grylls accused of propping up men dressed up as grizzly bears and using smoke machines to depict an active volcano.  

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New Delhi: Following former US President Barack Obama’s footsteps, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has become the second elected head of state to join adventurer Bear Grylls on his popular show, Man vs Wild.

The episode is set to air tonight on the Discovery networks. 

The show, much like Modi, is no stranger to controversy, with many reports stating that some of the precarious situations in the wild that Grylls finds himself in may actually have been carefully staged.

What the show’s all about

In 2006, Discovery Channel approached Grylls, an adventurer, survival instructor and a former soldier, to film a series of adventures that involved him getting abandoned at the world’s least hospitable places and documenting him making his way to safety. 

The show was called Man vs Wild and aired as Born Survivor in the UK. Episodes of the show have seen Grylls explore unfamiliar terrain, frequently stopping to look at an odd bug or lizard, sometimes poking and prodding a resting snake or even jumping into a water body to freshen up.

Man vs Wild is visually appealing, bringing out the various colours of the planet. Also keeping the viewers busy are Grylls’ stunts that involve him climbing or jumping off a cliff, free climbing waterfalls, running through water falls to parachuting from helicopters. 

Viewers are also hooked by what’s on Grylls’ plate — water from animal dung, fluid from fish eyeballs and insects to a whole lot of animals and reptiles.

All about the optics

The show, however, has often been a subject of controversy, with fans and even colleagues accusing Grylls of staging the hellholes he escapes from. One episode saw Grylls supposedly abandoned in the wild but a programme consultant claimed that the star was actually staying at a motel.

This led to the series being taken off air briefly, and it returned with a disclaimer. “Bear Grylls and the crew receive life support when they are in potentially life-threatening situations, as required by health and safety regulations,” the disclaimer read. “On some occasions, situations are presented to Bear so he can demonstrate survival techniques. Professional advice should always be sought before entering any dangerous environment.”

There were more such instances that have wounded Grylls’ public image. An episode depicted Grylls’ altercation with a grizzly bear. “I don’t like this at all. I don’t like this,” Grylls says as the bear approached. “And I don’t know a huge amount about bears but what I do know is that if they come into your camp and they see you there, you need to clear that camp, and fast.”

As Grylls retreated to his shelter camp, he warned viewers on the dangers of the bear, known to attack and kill humans. But Ron Hood, a survival expert present at the filming, said that Grylls’ only challenge was a colleague in a grizzly bear costume.

Hood explained that the producers of the show had tried to hire a tame bear, but the plan fell through, so a crew member dressed up as the grizzly. Additionally, viewers were under the impression that the grizzly bear sequence was purely spontaneous but Hood said that it was scripted well in advance.

Also read: 6 reasons why PM Modi is the perfect choice for Bear Grylls’ Discovery show Man vs Wild

Not the first time

Playing to the naivety of the audience, another episode showed Grylls escaping from an active volcano in the Pacific, casually avoiding clouds of hazardous gas. 

Newspapers reported that the smoke was faked by the production crew. And if you thought Grylls built that Polynesian-style raft using materials around him, including bamboo and palm leaves for a sail, then think again. 

Survival consultant Mark Weinert revealed that crew members had built the raft only to be dismantled, so it could be reconstructed by Grylls on camera.

Following the controversy, a spokesperson said the show was just a guide on survival techniques.

“We take any allegations of misleading our audiences very seriously. But Born Survivor is not an observational documentary series but a ‘how to’ guide to basic survival techniques in extreme environments,” the spokesperson said. “The programme explicitly does not claim that presenter Grylls’ experience is one of unaided solo survival.”

Serial ‘offender’

It’s not just this show. Another Grylls show, The Island, highlighting “13 ordinary men” braving the wild, was accused of fakery.

“I want to find out what happens if you strip man of all the luxuries and conveniences of modern living and then force him to fight for his existence,” says Grylls at the start of the show that premiered in 2014. “Let’s see what the British man is made of.”

These ‘ordinary’ men were abandoned on an island in the Pacific with a few tools. They included engineers, police officers, neurologists and farmers. But the fact that a few of them had accompanied Grylls on other adventures found no mention. 

One of them had 10 years of experience in some of the world’s most dangerous places, but viewers were time and again reminded that “None of these men have any experience of surviving in the wild”.

By now, Grylls is all too familiar with these criticisms, and has gone on record to say that some degree of planning is required in Man vs Wild.   

“I suppose [to bear] in mind that this is a worst-case scenario show, and therefore, of course things have to be planned. Otherwise, it would just be me in the wild and nothing happening, you know, because textbook survival says you land, you get yourself comfortable, you wait for rescue, you don’t do anything, it would be a very boring show,” he said in 2009. “The show is how to deal if you fall into quick sand, if you get attacked by an alligator, if you have to make a raft. I get a really good briefing before we go. I know there’s a big river there, there’s going to be great cliff climb there, there’s loads of snakes in those rocks. So, I do have a good idea of 80 per cent of what’s going to happen.”

Also read: Modi’s fear of narrative is our insurance against his excesses


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  1. Mr Gupta – if you want print to be leaning towards neutral journalism, pls know this is not the 80/90s, today’s readers is well aware n already knows all this. My understanding is that PM Modi is trying to promote natural and wild life conservation, tourism of Gujarat wild life was also something he tried…. So communities are aware… And you people are literally analyzing as to how this is staged etc. WTF. Shame o. Gupta for retwitting the kashmiri/Indian Muslim and now this. Kya bakwas hai… These oldies just don’t get it. Either they bend over backwards or bs around.

  2. Ohhhh god the print has become so predictable…we know what to expect from the show u at the print expected PM of the seventh largest country on the planet to risk his life n act like a bollywood stuntman… seriously??? Please don’t become blind with ur hatred towards the govt n the country… please spare us from ur stupid articles…🙏🙏

  3. We all already know what the show is and what to expect from it. Good that illiterates from ThePrint also understood well in time. Now let’s tune in at 9 pm. 🤣

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