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Bye politics, hi wildlife - PORTFOLIO: PRESERVATION

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Staff Reporter Published 12.02.04, 12:00 AM

It didn’t take her long to discover that politics was not her “cup of tea”, but the chief minister and his daughter do share one passion — films.

The art and culture portfolio has been Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s for years and Nandan his favourite daily destination. Now, daughter Suchetana has zeroed in on the Nandan screen to increase public interest in her portfolio of choice — wildlife preservation.

Suchetana is neck-deep in work for Quest for Life, a wildlife film festival starting February 20 at Nandan. Over 40 films will be screened at the multiplex over four days, with discussions featuring film-makers from across the country. Facilitating the fest is the state forest department, in collaboration with Aranyak, a body of NGOs and individuals involved with environmental issues.

“Political science is not my cup of tea,” confesses Suchetana, at the announcement of the festival plans on Wednesday. “Only some people can make it work,” adds the girl, who dabbled in student politics while at Presidency College, from where she graduated last year with a degree in political science.

It seems Suchetana has now found her calling. “If I get the chance, I would love to work as a zookeeper,” says the “instinctive nature-lover” who was inspired by Gerald Durrell. She has been working — or rather, “learning” — in the Sunderbans. She loves “small animals”, but she won’t talk about her two dogs, clearly not wanting to distract attention from the festival. Saving the wildlife, in all its diverse “bodies, structures and colour”, should be the priority from not only an aesthetic standpoint, but also as “our moral responsibility”, feels Suchetana.

At the festival, the films of Mike Pandey, Nick Gordon, Naresh and Rajesh Bedi, Belinda Wright and Ashish Chandola will find screen space, alongside a handful of feature films, including Finding Nemo and The Lion King. “Though there are a number of international films, the focus this year is on Indian wildlife and endangered species,” says V.K. Yadav, conservator of forest wildlife.

The chief minister is scheduled to inaugurate the free festival, which has been supported by Patton, for which over 20 schools have been invited. There will be segments devoted to tigers, elephants and the wetlands, followed by interactive sessions with activists in these areas. A photography exhibition will also be held.

“We are planning the event on a larger scale next year,” explains Purnima Dutta, member of Aranyak. The environmental alliance is planning workshops and seminars, with film screenings to be held at Nandan once every two months. Field visits with school nature clubs and getting villagers involved with conservation are the ground-level ideas Aranyak is working on, with the chief minister’s daughter involved every step of the way.

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