I am not sure I want to watch the ‘Into the Wild with Bear Grylls’ episode featuring you (it airs Monday night).
I am writing to you out of apprehension… It’s the same apprehension with which I wrote to Discovery’s press team as soon as I heard about the shooting of the episode inside the Bandipur National Park.
The press team told me that Into the Wild with Bear Grylls is inspired by the Man Vs Wild series, and that it’s the same series that included an episode with Prime Minister Modi, which was shot at the Jim Corbett National Park and broadcast last year. I have not watched this episode either because the “sneak peak” — where Grylls takes out a spear and says “if a tiger comes…” — was enough to turn me away.
In our country, tigers are given the highest level of protection under the Wildlife Protection Act. The animal is also revered for larger conservation purposes — many of our policies revolve around the idea that if you “save the tiger, you save the forest”.
Now, I am sure that you are aware of all of this. What I cannot understand is, why Bear Grylls? Why work with someone who thinks of our shared space as ‘Man vs Wild’? It’s a format that pushes for a confrontational attitude where people are encouraged to enter wildlife habitats — like Bandipur and Corbett that are legally protected, especially for wildlife — and then get into “battle-mode”. Sheer stupidity aside, such attitudes go directly against conservation values.
So, what kind of message do you think this ‘Man vs Wild’ theme sends about wildlife conservation?
Bandipur is also a tiger reserve and I’d hate to see Grylls walking around the area with a spear.
The Discovery press team said that you agreed to make your TV debut with Into the Wild because you believe that it is “a truly unique show” that offers “adrenaline-pumping action” and also “lends itself beautifully to driving a specific purpose for the larger good of society”. Where is this “larger good”? How is disturbing wildlife habitats with unnecessary intrusions serving a “larger good”?
Nevertheless, the team claimed success with the PM Modi episode, saying it “generated much desired attention on conservation of wildlife”.
I was also informed that your episode with Grylls is about raising awareness about water conservation. I fail to see why this “awareness” had to be raised from within the boundaries of a protected wildlife habitat with a ‘Man vs Wild’ format.
I fear that more such episodes will be shot within protected areas around the world, more such carefully planned ‘Man vs Wild’ adventures will be led into wildlife habitats for the “larger good”, and more people will be led to believe that shows like this should be emulated in real life to experience “truer” forms of adventure when, in reality, human-centric arrogance lies at the core of such productions.
Here’s hoping that wilderness survival shows stop their fight against wildlife and that you turn around, with your signature sunglass move, and announce to the world that ‘Man vs Wild’ is an idea that should die soon.
The writer is a Bengaluru-based freelance journalist