Filmmaker Nila Madhab Panda consciously explores stories that highlight consequences of environmental crises, which he has witnessed both in India and throughout the world
Filmmaker Nila Madhab Panda, known for acclaimed films like "Kalira Atita", and "Kadvi Hawa", believes it's his "responsibility" to create awareness about climate change by telling stories about the relationship between nature and humans.
The 49-year-old director, who made his OTT debut with climate fiction series "The Jengaburu Curse", said he consciously explores stories that highlight consequences of environmental crises, which he has witnessed both in India and throughout the world.
"I think more than fascination with (this kind of) storytelling, it is also a responsibility and I would consider myself to be a responsible person and creator. I grew up in a certain environment in a humble village (in Orissa) and became a globetrotter, I saw the world is changing too fast.
"I believe it is high time we need to tell these stories (of environment and climate change) to people," Panda told the media in an interview.
The "I Am Kalam" filmmaker is baffled why issues related to environment and climate change are not depicted frequently in cinema.
“It's very simple, when the underworld was affecting Bombay, there were blasts, drug mafia was there, and makers were making films on that. When it was 75 years of India’s independence, there were films being made on that.
"I'm surprised people ask me, ‘Why are you doing this?’ I'm surprised people haven't done it because the environment is affecting you everyday. If it is affecting us so much, then why can’t we tell these stories?"
In "The Jengaburu Curse", currently streaming on SonyLIV, the director looks at the impact of mining on humans and nature. The show, written by Mayank Tewari, is billed as India’s first climate fiction thriller series.
Panda, who has binged watched many international and Indian web-shows such as “Fauda”, “Tehran”, “Pataal Lok”, “Delhi Crime”, and “The Family Man”, said "The Jengaburu Curse" is suited for a streaming platform.
"Sometimes, as a storyteller, you think that you're stuck somewhere. While watching web-series, I realised there's much more we can explore in terms of story, character arcs, and I love working on characters.
"So, when this story was developed, I don't think I would have been able to tell this as a feature film, I needed a long format,” he said.
At the centre of Panda's show is Priya (Faria Abdullah), who is forced to come back to Odisha from London in search of her professor father who has gone missing. As she starts to search for him, a series of strange events unravel an unlikely connection between the indigenous Bondia tribe and the mining state of Odisha.
The national award-winning director said the story of “The Jengaburu Curse” (Jengaburu means a red mountain) is based on a legend.
“The story starts with a very simple thing, there’s a legend. It simply says, in any part of the world, like Africa, Australia or any country you go, these legends are based on truth. Truth is there’s a mountain, we believe it to be our God.
"One day somebody found something under the hill and they destroyed it, not knowing that it will have a larger impact, be it disease or environmental hazard or radiation.”
Panda said the seven-episode series explores the repercussions of mankind’s never-ending "greed" through this story which is set against the backdrop of the mining industry.
"It is the effect of greed. God has given us enough in terms of surviving on this planet, but greed has come to a level that we want to go to the Moon. We want superfast trains, for that you need to dig out the earth to bring that material."
The series also features Nasser, Makarand Deshpande, Sudev Nair, Deipak Sampat, and Hitesh Dave in pivotal roles.