Mumbai’s Film City shut down after five leopard attacks
The Maharashtra forest department has asked Film City in Goregaon to stop shooting at outdoor sites for the next eight days till a leopard suspected of attacking five children in the area is trapped.
Officials from the Dadasaheb Phalke Chitranagari confirmed that eight locations where films or television series are shot have been closed for at least eight days. Film City is located on the boundary of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), which has a leopard population of over 20, and the Aarey Milk Colony, where the cats are known to enter in search of prey.
The forest department has set up two trap cages in a radius of 5km of the site of the attacks, which killed one person, between March and July.
On Friday, 13-year-old Aarey Milk Colony resident, Aniket Dileep Page, was attacked by a leopard near the Aarey pump house around 3.30pm. On July 22, two-year-old Vihaan Nilesh Garuda, son of Nilesh Garuda, a staff member at SGNP, was attacked and killed, probably by the same leopard, near Maroshipada, a hamlet near Film City. On May 29, a four-year-old boy, resident of Royal Palms, Goregaon, was attacked by a leopard. On March 17, a three-year-old boy was attacked by a leopard near Khadakpada, a tribal hamlet. The boy escaped with injuries on his chest and throat after local residents scared the leopard away. On May 21, a three-year-old boy was saved by his mother after she snatched her child away from the claws of a leopard that had pounced on him in Chafyachapada, Aarey. The boy suffered minor injuries.
Following the attacks, forest officers had narrowed down to one leopard that they think is responsible for all attacks. The department sought permission from the chief wildlife warden, state forest, for trapping the animal.
“A total of 30 forest officers are patrolling the area. However, as per our camera trap images, the leopard, has been moving close to the cages but due to the movement of some vehicle in the vicinity, the animal runs away,” said Santosh Kank, range forest officer, Mumbai forest range.
Kank added that keeping all these issues in consideration, the department approached officials from Film City on Monday and requested them to stop shooting. “Our field officers have asked the shooting staff to stay away from the area to avoid any untoward incidents,” said Kank.
A Film City official said there are close to 800 people working at eight filming locations on any day. “We have followed the directions by the forest department and informed our staff that all shooting activities stand cancelled till next week,” said Chandrakant Kolekar, engineer and Film City officer. “
“We are currently looking for alternate areas in Mumbai where some of our shooting can take place. But since it is of prime importance that actors and shooting staff be safe, we have followed all directions from the forest department,” said Mangesh Raul, assistant manager, Film City studio. “The areas will not be opened up until the forest department deems it fit.”
Apart from three shifts over 24 hours, the forest department has placed 15 camera traps to monitor the movement of the leopard.
Despite order, television serial shoots continue unabated
Despite the state forest department’s orders to not shoot films and TV serials outdoors for the next eight days, cameras are rolling in the open in Film City. Actor Kanwar Dhillon, who stars in the show Ek Aastha Aisi Bhee, said, “Recently, there have been few leopard attacks in Film City but shooting hasn’t stopped. We have been shooting non-stop but I have to say that since there have been one too many incidents of these attacks in the past two weeks, people are a bit scared to roam around freely in the vicinity after sunset.”
Jay Soni, an actor in TV show Bhaag Bakool Bhaag, said, “We are absolutely safe here in the Film City and have been shooting without any issue. Of course the news of leopard attacks has spread but not resulted in halting any shoot. It has been a normal day on the sets for all of us.”
Gulki Joshi, who has been shooting for Ek Shringaar Swabhimaan, said, “My set is the last set in the Film City beyond which there are barricades. I heard that shooting of some shows have been halted but I have been shooting just fine since morning. There has been no problem for us yet.”