Suresh Heblikar was the man who made path breaking Kannada cinema from the late 70s onwards. But in late 90s, he switched paths and turned environmentalist, determined to make a difference. The man has excelled in both his roles. Though he continues to act occasionally, it is environment that he has chosen to dedicate his time to.
Born on Feb 22nd 1948 in Dharwad, he moved to Bangalore in 1991 and became a resident of Jayanagar 3rd Block. He is the winner of the State Award for his movie Aaghaatha, National and State Awards for his Kaadina Benki and the prestigious International Osiris Award given by United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (UNFAO) for his film, Shepherds on the move. The film depicts the relationship between human beings and animals.
He got the best actor award for his performance in the movie Aparichita. As an environmentalist he founded Eco-Watch, a centre for Environment and Sustainable Development, an NGO, in 1998.
Excerpts from the interview.
You made some path breaking cinemas back in the late 80s. What was your thought process while making the films?
Many issues in our society were not the subjects of the films. As I considered cinema a powerful medium I was always conscious of giving something different to the society. For example the relationship between a man and a woman always is being portrayed in movies very romantically but in real life it is different. My focus was always on reality.
Some of your films were controversial for the topics it covered, was it easy to make those kinds of films?
I did something, which I considered important. I don’t bother about the controversies; I bother only about my audience. Controversies will always be there in our society.
What do you think of the Kannada cinemas today?
(Laughs) Many films in the kannada film industry are meaningful. Yet there are many (other) films which are completely away from the reality. I don’t know whether they are aware of the relevance of cinema as a medium of communication.
Please tell us something about what sparked your interest and concern for the environment and to start Eco-Watch?
Since I have spent my childhood in Dharwad, an ecologically rich place, I had an opportunity to involve more with the environment. In my childhood, I used to hear environmental stories from my grandfather (Narayan Rao Heblikar) naturally I became passionate towards environment.
It was Nagesh Hegde, my friend, who motivated me to participate in the movement to save Western Ghats and protest against Kaiga nuclear plant. I became actively involved in environmental activities and organised a programme called Parisara Uthsava in 1991 as a campaign against environmental issue. Around 30,000 students participated in the programme, at Kanteerava stadium. It was my co-workers at the time, who suggested I should have a have a platform for my environmental activities. Motivated by them I started Eco-Watch.
Bangalore is developing rapidly, we are surrounded by concrete buildings everywhere; does it have any psychological impact on us?
Definitely there is a psychological impact on us with these environmental destructions. We spend most of our time inside buildings or amidst them. This will affect our attitude towards ourselves, environment and surrounding. The rich environment always has good water, good soil and good climate that gives you peaceful life.
The disconnect from the environment always makes you worse. It will tempt you to be disconnected from your emotional life at first and that will automatically disconnect you from other people. The farther you go away from the environment the worse off you are.
What are the main activities of Eco-Watch?
Its key objective is spreading a message of environmental conservation through relevant, focused yet diverse programmes and activities. These outreach activities are aimed at building awareness about various environmental issues and concerns among student communities, organisations, corporate entities and the masses, in a simple yet effective manner.
This will hopefully create an eco-conscious culture which will help to protect and improve existing ecological and environmental conditions in both urban and rural areas. The activities include ongoing research based projects and programmes, thematic campaigns, field studies, surveys and documentation in collaboration with our technical associates, inspired and dedicated people who offer us the wealth of their experience and expertise.
What do you think of your neighbourhood, today?
When I came to Jayanagar in 1991, the place was calm, quiet and beautiful. It was devoid of all kinds of pollution. But now I am losing my peace of mind due to pollution – it is noisy, air is polluted, water is polluted and there is less vegetation.
How effective is our administration on environmental issues?
It is very dangerous to have an administrator who is not environmentally conscious. He will not take care of our lakes, air, water, forest etc,. as he will be interested only on money. This is what is happening in Bangalore.
What are the most serious environmental threats in Bangalore?
Our air, water, soil, noise all are polluted. But the most serious environmental issue in Bangalore is unscientific management of waste. We are processing only 10 percent of Bangalore’s total electronic waste. The remaining 90 percent are still remaining unprocessed. This is the same in the management of garbage as well.
We produce around 5000 tonnes of waste per day. We are unable to manage it effectively. It poses a serious threat to our environment. Bangalore is going to face one of the worst situations in the coming years as our ground water level is coming down at alarming rate.
What is the solution to save Bangalore from environmental destruction?
Decentralisation is the only solution to save our environment. Take out some industries and distribute them into some other parts of Karnataka. Why do we want everything here? In addition to that, recharge groundwater, preserve our lakes and do effective rainwater harvesting.
How do you compare your life as a filmmaker and an environmentalist?
As I told you, the environmentalist in me was there from my childhood. I chose cinema as a medium for disseminating my messages to the society. My love will be for making films and my focus and concern will be environment.⊕