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99 Yatra
Chinkara case: Forest dept acted after 6 yrs
15 March 2007

AHMEDABAD: For six years after the Aamir Khan starrer ’Lagaan’ was shot in Kutch, the state forest department had no clue that the film crew had taken ’illegal’ video grabs of the endangered chinkara and used the footage for their commercial venture. The film crew was camping in Bhuj and Mandvi in 1999-2000. The forest department has gone on record saying that it was exactly after six years of the incident on August 5 last year that the first notice was sent to executive producer of Aamir Khan Production Private Limited (AKPPL) by the department. That it took cognisance of the issue only after an activist and a local newspaper raised the issue.

Since August last year, the forest department has sent 28 notices to the producer of Lagaan, Beli Srinivas Rao, cameraman Anil Mehta, Ex-director Reena Dutt, director Ashutosh Gowarikar, actor Aamir Khan and creative director Pankaj Kumar. The last notice was sent to Gowarikar on February 3 this year. Documents available with TOI show that 16 notices were issued by the department between October and November last year while just three notices were issued in the months of January and February this year. Only Srinivas and Mehta have personally responded to the notifications. "It’s a rule that film makers or wild life photographers have to take permission from the forest department before going ahead with the work.We do not mind if the filmmaker is making a documentary film, educational film or a social cause on the endangered species. But in the Lagaan case, the footage was used for commercial purpose and the team did not have permission from the forest department," says conservator of forests, Kutch, RN Meena.

When asked about the response to the forest department notices, Meena says, " None from our department had been to Mumbai. Their lawyers do most of the footwork and some of them have argued that that the chinkara footage was actually digitally grafted into the film.We are looking into these responses," says Meena The documents suggest that the shooting took place in Banni area located in the Kunuriya sector and Sumrasar area of Mandvi taluka. Besides, senior forest officials say that a forest beat guard, had escorted the ’Lagaan’ team to the location but was unaware of the chinkara shoot.

Courtesy : Times of India - New Delhi,India kutchhis globally , from Mumbai

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