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It runs in the family. The youngest generation of the Bedi family has also taken to wildlife like a fish to water. No wonder, Vijay and Ajay Bedi’s friends call them the ‘Crazy Brothers’. “When we were growing up, rules pertaining to wildlife were very different. That’s why we had animals like snakes and spotted deer in our backyard,” says Vijay. And this familiarity with wild animals made them understand animal behaviour much better.
It’s this obsession with wildlife that made the brothers bag the prestigious Green Oscar, becoming Youngest Asian and Indian as it’s the third one for the Bedi brothers, having already won the 31st Banff World Largest Mountain Film Festival award in Canada and the Best South Asia film in Singapore recently, for their film Cherub of the Mist. What’s more, Ajay & Vijay Bedi went on to become First and only Indians to be bagged a nomination for natural history film at the TV Academy's of Arts & Science, The Emmy® Awards recently. “These awards send out a strong conservation message – that the only 1,500 surviving red pandas, which are hunted mainly for their fur, are an endangered species, more so than even the tiger, and the issue needs attention from the authorities.”
The idea to do a film on the red panda struck the brothers after the central zoo authority set two of them – Sweety and Minnie – free into the higher reaches of the Himalayas, where they live, in a first ever experiment of its kind.
Although radio collared to make tracking easier, the red pandas often sent Vijay and Ajay on a wild goose chase. “It sometimes took six hours to track them everyday, because at that altitude, there are no roads, so you have to make your way,” said Vijay. He felt that tracking these animals was more difficult than chasing the tiger. “There are a lot of noises around the tiger. But the red panda is too smart. It hardly makes any sound,” laughs Vijay.
Now that the film has received 11 international recognition, the brothers feel that their efforts have paid off. “Though I wish the government would be more considerate towards wildlife film makers. After all, we’re building awareness about wildlife with our work. They must encourage us so that more and more youngsters get into this genre of filmmaking,” he adds.
Despite accompanying their father on wildlife trips during school holidays right from childhood, each trip unfolded an exciting, sometimes amusing adventure for them.
A recent trip to Corbett had Vijay scared for once. “The gigantic tusker with the group seemed very mild and sweet. But then, as the wind changed, he caught my smell and charged ferociously towards me,” he says. Thankfully, Ajay’s jeep started at the first go and Vijay made to it in the nick of time and made an escape, despite the tusker following them for a good 15 metres. “These things happen despite our following dad’s mantra – respect animals more than you respect yourself. And do not trespass on their territory. After all, the forest is their home,” he adds.