Director Aaditrie Dipika’s documentary on environmentalist Dr. Anil Prakash Joshi harps more on his cause than any reverence.

Rating: (4 / 5)

By Mayur Lookhar

In a nation obsessed with celebrities, activism is often confronted with allegation of opportunism. The masses largely don’t care. Dr. Anil Prakash Joshi. Most would be unaware of this name. White beard, a bandana, an infectious smile. One of his disciples stated that such looks has often drawn comparisons with popular veteran actor Mithun Chakraborty. Is Mr. Joshi any doppelganger? There we go! The entertainment folks would get curious. Joshi doesn’t mind the unwanted attention if it helps his noble cause.

Mithun Chakraborty wasn’t there, but his long-time manager made it for the special screening of the documentary A Son of Himalaya. He smiled at the Mithun mention, but Dr.Joshi asserted that he doesn’t watch Bollywood films. Instead, he prefers Bhojpuri cinema that is devoid of logic. Guess, even a global environmentalist has the odd urge for escapism.

He spoke warmly to the limited guests. The individual conversations were limited to the pre-screening pleasantries. The moment the documentary played, it was all about conservation.

Young filmmaker Aaditrie Dipika makes her debut with the documentary on the respected environmentalist. Though titled A Son of Himalaya, Joshi and Aaditrie are careful in highlighting the cause than any reverence. It’s Bollywood that likes vanity.

Dr.Anil Prakash Joshi (C), Dia Mirza (4) and director Aaditrie Dipika

Just under 40 minutes, Dipika does away with the standard tropes as the great man only talks about his early life towards the end. Those were the days when humble mountaineers made the village pond, trees their friend. The documentary doesn’t even present him as any climate crusader. Unlike the impressionable young minds who begin their speeches with a ‘How dare you” on a global stage.

Be the change that you want to see. Dr. Joshi imbibes that Gandhian spirit. Any change requires first addressing the root. Plant the seeds of change among the young. Environmental awareness is impossible without reaching out to children first. Joshi simplifies the eco-dream by sensitizing the children that unlike mankind, nature doesn’t discriminate on grounds of caste, religion, creed. There’s only one habitable planet for mankind i.e. earth, which is slowly dying.  Okay, some wealthy nations harbour colonizing Mars dream, but if ever the situation arises, most global citizens are likely to sigh, “jeena yahan, marna yahan, iske sivah jaana kahan” [Gotta live and die here (earth)]

The documentary doesn’t scare away the viewer by revealing the damage that is already done. Instead, it reminds you that there is still hope. The film makes a compassionate plea to mankind to save the planet. Hope is provided through the humble efforts of HESCO [Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organization], led by Dr. Joshi.  A viewer learns the basic things that a human can do to save our environment. We learnt a new term called Water Recharge. Conservation efforts have also broadened the scope for women empowerment in rural India.

Whilst the biggest polluters are the urban towns, Dipika, Joshi stay clear of any blame game. Instead, they showcase the efforts of rural folks to inspire urban India. The message is conveyed in a humble tone, bulk of it in the words of Dr, Joshi. You’ve heard GDP, but a country truly thrives when it also invests in GEP [Green Environment Product], as coined by Dr. Joshi.

Dipika, creative director-editor Advitya Ray, and their team must be lauded for covering the environmental goal. They also shed some light on the person, his struggles. Genuine climate activists are often derided by uncouth people who serve vested interests. Joshi briefly speaks about facing early criticism. In a world of greed, honest environment activists often begin their journey alone. The family faced tough times, yet his wife and son stuck by him.

A Son of Himalaya is not all about words. Dipika’s cinematographer Kangkan Bora, other creatives produce some fine visuals that complement the tone. Joshi placing his hand on a mountain rock plays finely to the corresponding words on Lord Shiva. Himalaya. The barren field is captured in monochrome implying despair, but few seconds later, it turns green thus offering a ray of hope.

More than repair, A Son of Himalaya makes a plea for nurturing. Gentle words are sometimes bypassed, and so Joshi spells out the worrying aspect loud. Not in the film, but in his closing words after the screening. “We count our wealth. But do we count our breath? Truth is that we don’t value a single breath”.

As Kumar Sanu famously crooned in Aashiqui [1990], “Saanson ki zarurat hai jaise, zindagi ke liye” (In order to live, we need to be breathing). Well, take care of your breathing, and the aashiqui will follow. Let’s strengthen the hands of the Son of Himalaya in saving our world.

A Son of Himalaya is currently eyeing a release in festival circuit.

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