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Sirocco – How A Dud Became A Stud

Produced and Directed by Ashwika Kapur

Assistant Editor Purva Variyar reviews Ashwika Kapur’s Green Oscar winning film Sirocco – how a dud became a stud.

Sirocco is a super star in his own right and acts like one. He roams the world, travels in planes with his own personal seat, greets his fans and boasts of being the only bird in the world with a government job! Meet Sirocco, a Kakapo, one of only 125 Kakapo parrots left in the world with most of them living on a small quarantined south Pacific island called Codfish island or Whenua Hou, which acts as the kakapo recovery centre for New Zealand. They are so few in number, that each one has been given a name of its own.  This flightless, ground-dwelling and nocturnal bird, endemic to New Zealand, looks like a cross between an owl and a parrot. Sirocco’s 'rags-to-riches' story caught the attention of Ashwika Kapur who was looking for a story for a wildlife documentary to shoot as part of her post-graduation studies in natural history filmmaking. That’s how Sirocco - How A Dud Became A Stud, the movie was born.

Photo: Ashwika Kapur.

Kapur, a 27-year-old, a natural history filmmaker, went on to win the most coveted honour in the wildlife and environment film industry, the Wildscreen Panda Awards, also known as the Green Oscars in the Global Category for Sirocco making her the first woman from India and the youngest Indian to garner this achievement.

The film revolves around Sirocco and his unique lifestyle born out of his bizarre delusion that he is one among the humans who look after him. It starts off on a light note introducing the protagonist, Sirocco, and smoothly transitions, with a beautiful narration by Karen Elliot, into an interesting background story. Shot in Dunedin, New Zealand, the story begins from Sirocco’s birth on Codfish Island in 1997, his respiratory infection to his eventual complete recovery after some human intervention. When the team looking after Sirocco tries to release him back into the wild, he refuses to be separated from them. After a few futile attempts, the team relents and decides to take him under their wing. However, from the point of view of this species’ conservation efforts, this is bad news and Sirocco is soon dismissed as a dud among the kakapos and as useless for breeding. However, in the year 2009, life changes for Sirocco when a BBC Natural History team arrives to film the Kakapos. Sirocco’s antics charm the whole world and makes him a huge sensation. The YouTube video ‘Shagged by a rare parrot – Last Chance to see – BBC Two’ gets over a million views and is still counting. Sirocco now has thousands of avid Facebook followers on his own personal page and even regularly ‘tweets’ on Twitter! In 2010, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key assigned him a job as a Official Spokesbird for Conservation and officially billed him as an ambassador for conservation. Ashwika has maintained a fine balance throughout the film – keeping the focus on Sirocco but highlighting the interesting history of the species, and how hunting by the thousands caused a stunning decline in this once Kakapo-rich country of New Zealand. Keeping the tone of the movie light to interest every sort of viewer, she has conveyed a powerful message. Sirocco strikes a good balance between educating and entertaining.

"Animals make the best ambassadors for conservation. Where ever Sirocco goes, he spreads joy and happiness. And I think that's what my film is about, it's about the hope and optimism and happiness that animals like Sirocco spread,'' says Ashwika. She has single-handedly made this 16-minute short film in the span of two and a half months, undertaking everything from the script, research, production and post-production with panache.

Photo Courtesy: Wildscreen Film Festival.

Sirocco – How A Dud Became A Stud is scheduled for a Christmas release online this year giving Sirocco’s hundred thousand fans something more to look forward to in the coming festive season.

First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXIV No. 6, December 2014.


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