There are so few kakapos left on earth today that all of them have names.
And one name is world-famous – Sirocco. A bird which became so famous in New Zealand after its long-drawn treatment due to a respiratory disease, that the government assigned him an administrative job: that of a spokesperson, or rather a ‘spokesbird’ for conservation for the country. The approximately 125 kakapos are endemic to New Zealand.
A film made on this kakapo, titled Sirocco – how a dud became a stud, has won its maker, Ashwika Kapur a Panda Award, dubbed the ‘Green Oscars’ for celebrating the very best in natural history film-making.
With this award, won in the Best Newcomer category amidst stiff competition, the twenty seven-year-old Kolkata girl has achieved two firsts – the youngest Indian as well as the first Indian woman to win a Green Oscar. The awards were presented at the Wildscreen Film Festival in Bristol in England on October 24.
The Dunedin, New Zealand-based science and natural history film-making graduate from University of Otago (also in New Zealand) grips the audience as she unfolds the story of this bizarre parrot catapulted by a strange chain of events to stardom. Today, this bird has his own PR team that manages his public image. He has a social media following that has surpassed that of many human celebrities. He even gets his own seat in the airplane that flies him on official tours.
Ashwika Kapur with the Panda Award (Mint)
Ashwika Kapur on the making of Sirocco
How Sirocco became the official spokesbird
At just 3 weeks
old, Sirocco caught a respiratory illness and the treatment required
meant he had to be hand-raised and kept apart from other kakapo. As a
result he became imprinted on humans and thinks he is one. In 2010,
after several years of taking part in conservation awareness efforts, he
was named ‘Official Spokesbird for Conservation’ by New Zealand’s Prime
Minister John Key.
Brought up in Kolkata, Ashwika has been an animal lover since her childhood, turning her home into a mini-zoo through enduring generosity and kindness towards creatures without a voice. According to her, her education at two of the city’s premier institutions, La Martiniere for Girls and St Xavier’s College, helped put together her passion for two things – nature and English literature. And these have “stood in me great stead as a wildlife film-maker, because I choose to tell stories on screen, and not simply document wildlife.”
Not to anyone’s surprise, this is not the only milestone in her career as a film-maker. She has previously filmed and directed a documentary for World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, India, made a short wildlife documentary under NHU, South Africa (Wildlife Film Academy), filmed a documentary for a Birds of Prey Workshop in Masai Mara, Kenya, freelanced with NEWS (Nature Environment & Wildlife Society) on a number of conservation and community-related projects in West Bengal, and had her photographs published in official government of India brochures.
Ashwika on her film-making sojourns
Ashwika’s formative days saw her as a TV show anchor for the annual Durga Puja special programme on the Tara News television channel in Kolkata. She co-anchored a youth programme, Tero Theke Teish with sports journalist Debashish Datta on CTVN. She has also acted in numerous tele-films, advertisements and serials, including ones directed by legendary Indian personalities like Aparna Sen, Rituparna Ghosh and Naseeruddin Shah.
Ashwika’s achievements have set a benchmark for the youth of the country – to attain such achievements at such a young age and thus bring about a wave of development and encouragement at their place of origin. She is also a benchmark for women who have ventured as well as those who want to venture, into wildlife film-making, both in India and the world, as there are so few who have ventured into this field.
Official trailer of Sirocco – how a dud became a stud
Written by Ankita Bose for Team M3.tv