Animals are not paid actors…

A few months back, an elephant that was used during the shoot of Mani Ratnam”s “Raavan” went on a rampage and killed its mahout. This incident occurred during the shooting of the movie near Thrissur in Kerala.  The media was very worried about the star-studded crew , to a lesser extent worried about the dead mahout’s family and not worried at all about the welfare of the elephant. Mr Bachchan on his blog worried about the safety of his family members, the media was anxiously speculating the frivolous “jinx” factor in the Rathnam project and no one raised a whimper about why the elephant behaved in this fashion. If I were the elephant, I would have probably not restricted my trampling frenzy over the mahout alone, I would have taken it on the entire crew. The elephant was probably subject to ill-treatment whilst getting him to either walk a particular way or act in a particular manner or raise his trunk in a certain angle. The elephant is not interested in acting, he wants to roam the jungles in gay abandon and will understandably get irked by the digging and prodding of his mahout to appease Rathnam’s desire for perfection. When the heftily paid actor’s have been subject to a certain degree of hardship in the damp humid climate of Kerala, I shudder to think what the elephant would have been through. Fingers were pointed at the elephant because he cannot speak to defend himself, it happens all the time every time.

Likewise, during the shooting of Jodha Akbar over 80 elephants, 100 horses and 55 camels were being used without proper approvals from the national animal welfare boards and no veterinary doctors present during the entire shoot. Making an army of animals act in movies is a lot more cost-effective than making an army of humans to do so. The animals will not complain about the remuneration ( as there is none ), about the food , the clothes, make up and about rest. They just get whipped into acting and they put up with the abuse.Some break from the shackles and out of sheer frustration behave the way the “Raavan” elephant did.

Snakes, horses, elephants, pigeons , lions , tigers , bulls et all have made their appearances in our movies. From snakes in Nagina to pigeons in many love songs have sweated it out for their masters.In a country like ours where little importance is accorded to those that live below the poverty line, animals are a cursed lot. I am against seeing animals on the screen be it big or small unless they appear in channels like Nat Geo, Animal planet. I also appreciate a genuine movie made for the love of the wild life. If we must use animals in movies, we should after ensuring that adequate care and facilities are accorded to them. Approvals from the welfare boards must be mandatory before commencing shooting, failing which the producers should be prosecuted. Even these approvals must be given only if the movie cannot be made without their appearance and semblance of logic attached for it.Even animals need unions.

Not all movie making projects have abused animals and Hollywood has made some movies the “right” way.Movies like “Born free” were made by  animal rights activists based on a true life story of Joy and George Adamson who rehabilitated African lions. The story tracks the life of Elsa the lioness during her time with the Adamson’s under rehab and later on in the jungles of Kenya where she goes on to have three cubs. The making of the film was a life-changing experience for actors Virginia McKenna and her husband Bill Travers, who became animal rights activists, and were instrumental in creating the Born Free Foundation.

Countries like China and India have a long way to go before they can be perceived as a “great” country.

“A country is judged by the way it treat’s it’s animals ” –  Gandhi.

I received this video some time back about two friends who looked after Christian the lion ( born in captivity ) and released him later in Kenya. It has made me cry the first time and every time.


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11 Responses to “Animals are not paid actors…”

  1. Sharmila, I agree with you that animals must never be ill-treated just because they don’t have a voice to protest against the injustice. Man is the caretaker of this planet and it is his moral responsibility to look after and care for his environment. And animals are the most crucial link to the well being of this planet and it’s environment. Ill-treatment of animals on a movie set, though unjustifiable, is just a fraction of the mammoth scale of animal abuse that happens the world over. What about the countless number of animals that are butchered mercilessly each day to be served as delicacies on our dishes? Do we think about it? Aren’t we equally guilty of animal rights abuse? It’s high time we review and evaluate our so-called human qualities and hierarchy. Let us all think about it.

    Thank you Sharmila for reminding us of our forgotten responsibilities.

    • Melwyn – than you for the comment, fabulous as always. I agree with the “butchering”. China tops the list along with a few middle eastern countries and India is not far behind. I do not buy and fur or leather products, I use only Body Shop which is against animal testing. If all of us do one small thing, it can go a long way.

  2. Thank you Sharmila. I appreciate your sensibility and awareness. You are right, small steps make a big difference.

  3. masterpraz Says:

    Lovely piece here Sharmila..just put it up on MP! Agree on all counts…

    Note Im having problems with posting on NG right now and BB has slown down on putting up posts (1-2 new posts max daily)

  4. […] Read the rest from HERE […]

  5. Thanks Praza. Thanks for the update on NG and BB.

  6. Anand Khare Says:

    Ironically, India is only country where cows,snakes,bulls,rats,elephants,fish are worshipped.Indians are to a large extent are very caring about their pets and stray animals.Cruelty with animals at businesses may there as businesses have no place for emotions.

    And why only animals, humans are treated no better in India. There are more human abuse cases in India than animal abuse cases.

    • Anand – True, India and some Budhdhist nations worship animals and yet we are NOT there to defend them. I also do not believe that animals are business, they are not. The difference between them amd us is our ability to utilize our brains in the correct manner. You are right about no values given to humans, that is why I say they are doomed. We need to start small. I was telling Melwyn I do not buy leather and fur products. I buy only products which are against animal testing.Every small drop matters.

  7. Salman Shahid Alvi Says:

    Hi Sharmila,yet another great piece of writing from you….

    I feel that there is no reason for not showing solicitude to animals just because they cant express their groan…except in the form of anger.Its a clear deterioration in the moral values of we humans who make use of others disabilities.

    And you are right in saying that each ones effort may just be a drop in the ocean ,but surely the contribution of individual drops lead to the formation of an ocean…….

  8. […] Let us stop blaming animals when they unleash their fury on us. I wrote about the elephant that died during the shoot of Mani Ratnam’s movie ” Raavan” a few months back. Here is the link for it – https://sharmilasays.wordpress.com/2010/01/05/animals-are-not-paid-actors/ […]

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