On ‘The Happiness Road’ with Shekar Dattatri

My conversation with Wildlife and Conservation filmmaker Shekar Dattatri for my ‘The Happiness Road’ Series that appears in DT Next every Sunday. Read the conversation on the DT Next page here. ‘The Happiness Road’ is also my next Book. Photo Credit: Vinodh Velayudhan

“Virtually everything in Life is a bonus”

Shekar Dattatri is 54 years old. But he looks a decade younger. And the reason, I realize, is that he’s been following his bliss for 41 years now. “From the age of 13, I have never done anything that I have not wanted to do. What makes me happy is doing what I believe in and what I love doing,” he says.

A chance visit with a friend to the Guindy Snake Park in 1976 led to Shekar getting “drawn into the world of nature”. He started off as a student-volunteer back then. But one thing led to another and his Life evolved serendipitously – from his getting an SLR camera from a well-wisher, to him getting to make a National Award winning film on Silent Valley, and later on with the plethora of film opportunities that came his way, many of which went on to win awards and had premium showings on Nat Geo and Discovery. “I am blessed. The Universe has been very good to me – connecting me to the right people, at the right time,” acknowledges Shekar, adding, “And I made sure I invested each waking moment in exploring nature’s every facet. I feel it would have been a waste of my Life if I had done anything else.”

Shekar Dattatri - Option 2 - Photo Credit - Vinodh Velayudhan

Vaani and AVIS – engrossed in conversation with Shekar

Much feted and celebrated, Shekar is very grounded despite his rockstar, cult status in wildlife and conservation filmmaking: “I am still learning to make films. What I have done is just a drop in the ocean.”

From 2000, he has exercised a significant, conscious, choice to shift his focus from making films for TV and instead make films for conservation awareness. He concedes that he makes little or no money this way. But he’s very happy that his work makes a difference to someone, somewhere. “I have chosen to be single. And I live modestly with just enough to support myself. Whatever I do I try to do it well, I have no expectations and what gives me happiness is making a film that I really believe in,” he says.

I want to know if being happy and content can consistently deliver greatness, as is evident from his impressive and vast body of work. Shekar’s answer, while being unpretentious, leaves me with yet another inspiring perspective: “Virtually everything in Life is a bonus. When you accept this fact, you are more happy, and Life is more meaningful.”

Shekar Dattatri - DT Next - 6.8.17
The story in the print edition of DT Next