Warren Pereira’s documentary ‘Tiger 24’ has been garnering a lot of praise from across the world. The film on the popular tiger Ustad has not only been getting praised but has also struck a conversation around the wild animal who has been termed a man-eater. Will this film be able to remove the stigma around Ustad? Well, you’ll have to watch the film to find out.
From what we heard and read elsewhere you were originally going to make something else and later on, you stumbled upon the story on ‘Tiger 24’. Is that true?
When this started, I did not really know what I was doing. All I knew was that I had filmmaking skills and was passionate about tiger conservation. I was actually told to follow a tigress with cubs because those are supposed to make for the best tiger documentaries but then I saw this young 5-year-old male T24 aka Ustad and his eyes bored holes into my soul...how was I not going to follow him?
Was Ustad always going to be the key focus of your documentary? Or were you going to make a documentary on the entire wildlife conservation?
I was just trying to make a tiger documentary. But I felt a connection with T24 so I decided to follow him, full on.
You studied and spent quite a lot of time profiling Ustad. Did you ever feel he was a man-eater?
You have to define what a man-eater is first. If it is defined as a tiger that seeks out humans as it would its natural prey on a weekly basis then T24 is not a man-eater. If it is defined as a tiger that kills and eats, or attempts to eat, 4 humans over the course of 5 years then T24 may be considered a man-eater.
In general, are you scared or rather nervous when you’re shooting around such wild animals?
The chances of you being attacked in a jeep by a tiger are very low, so no. On foot, you need to be more aware.
What steps do you take in order to ensure that you are protected at all times while shooting in the wild?
Staying in the jeep is pretty safe and respecting the animal's space is also critical.
Growing up what was your first experience with tigers? Many of us have always seen them in zoos in captivity, but barely get to witness them in their natural habitats. What has been your first memory of seeing a tiger?
My first memories were learning that my grandfather used to shoot tigers when it was legal to do so. I am glad that hunting has been banned in India. I saw wild tigers in Kahna in the late 90s and thought they were god-like creatures.
Documentary films always end up being marred by financial burdens. What sort of difficulties did you face in terms of financing?
I had to self-finance to maintain the integrity of the film. The financing has set me back considerably and has deterred me from making another conservation film as these films have a niche audience, sadly. On top of all that, some people still want free links and free tickets to 'Tiger 24' because they "know" me or did me some vague favour at some point or say they will generate "buzz". What they do not understand is that if they do not support conservation films that show the gritty reality of tiger conservation, they will not be made.
John Abraham has been an avid supporter of all forms of animals whether wild or domesticated. Has he offered any help? If yes, how much?
John Abraham was nice enough to post the 'Tiger 24' trailer on his Insta and Facebook accounts, along with a pro-conservation message.
If he is reading this interview of yours, what would be your message to him? Or rather, what would be your ask from him? How could he be a part of this initiative?
John Abraham's fame can bring attention to important documentaries like 'Tiger 24' and get the message out to a wider audience.
What next are your steps so that you can help tigers in general all over?
I am a filmmaker so I can keep making conservation-focused films and support legitimate tiger conservation organizations with my film work at no charge.
‘Tiger 24’ had a limited release. What are the plans for putting this out to the world on OTT?
AA Films and I will certainly try to get 'Tiger 24' on Digital Platforms or on a Streaming service. It will be somewhat up to the Streamers to support a compelling narrative on Tiger conservation while they weigh its popularity over a say a salacious wedding match-making show or a Blue Chip natural history documentary that has great shots but has no real conservation message other than some generically good message that is not truly useful.
Would you continue to make documentary films only or do you even plan to go ahead and do regular commercial feature films as well? If yes, which genre would you be most interested in?
I would love to finish my other tiger documentary - 'Bamera' - but I don't have the funding to finish it right now. A Roger Federer and/or Stan Wawrinka documentary would also be engaging as I am a huge tennis fan. I also have a dark comedy on the scripting stage called 'Double Bite' as I do a horror film called 'Scarebnb'.
If you could make a film with any actor or actress from around the world, whom would you choose as your top 5 options?
It really depends on the project, really. But Stanley Tucci is an actor I like and I think Raveena Tandon is fantastic!
What next can we see coming from your end?
Whichever of my next projects gets financed first!