Starring: MK Raina, Paintal, Master Himanshu
Director: Madan Bawaria
Ankur joins his ornithologist grandpa on a campaign to Mauritius to save the endangered pink pigeon endemic to the island nation.
As the year 1989 drew to an end, Hindi cinema witnessed a blitzkrieg called Maine Pyar Kiya. The musical romance was the biggest hit of the year. Along with its fresh-faced lead pair, the other big attraction of MPK was the love letter carrying pet white pigeon — aptly named Handsome in real life.
Speaking of pigeons, earlier that year, another film centered around the bird. Ankur Maina Aur Kabootar was a joint venture between The Children’s Film Society India (CFSI) and the Mauritius Film Development Corporation. It promoted the cause of the rare pink pigeon, native to Mauritius, and in the verge of extinction during that period.
Over generations, due to habitat destruction and mankind’s growing intrusion, the island had lost several endemic species like the broad-billed parrot, giant tortoise, and the famed dodo. The same fate awaited the pink pigeons if steps aren’t taken for their conservation.
The message is projected through the experiences of Ankur (Himanshu), a cheerful and inquisitive boy, who along with their caretaker Gangadin (Paintal) joins his ornithologist grandfather Dr Sinha (Raina) on a quest to Mauritius to secure the dwindling population of pink pigeons. Being among the earliest films to be shot in the island, AMAK captures the Mauritian flora and fauna in their pristine glory.
The film is directed by FTII graduate Madan Bawaria, is best known to get Jaya Bachchan’s movie career rolling. Bawaria directed his fellow FTII alum in his diploma film, Suman, which impressed Hrishikesh Mukherjee so much that he cast her in his 1971 film Guddi about a starry eyed girl’s fascination with Bollywood heroes. Interestingly, Shabana Azmi, too, regards Jaya’s effortless performance in the film as her inspiration to join the industry. Suman won the President’s Award and Bawaria went on to assist several directors prominent filmmakers including Basu Chatterjee, and directed Shaayad starring Naseeruddin Shah in 1979.
Films can be an excellent source of moral and social lessons, especially with respect to children. And AMAK is a lovely example of it. Each life form is essential and deserves respect, practicing responsible ecotourism and other such important messages are conveyed without preaching or condescending.
Apart from its environmental stand, the film’s subtle focus on empathy is worth mentioning. Ankur is polite and attentive to people around him in his interactions. The gracious portrayals of the supporting characters like Gangadin and local healer Madam Zozo, played by the formidable Savita Bajaj affirm Bawaria’s attention to detail.
And as children need stable, sensitive adults to steer them, their cinema too can benefit from such presence. In AMAK, this is Dr Bhagirathprasad Sinha, performed with great affability by MK Raina. As the perceptive bird expert, the theatre legend’s gentle guidance about compassion, coexistence, and acceptance of one’s own failings make for far better learning than many chapters of moral science would.
National Film Award for Best Children’s Film (Year 1990)
Watch: Ankur Maina Aur Kabootar