My parents encouraged me to do what I am best at. Being son to my mother, a trained puppeteer who uses puppets as a tool to communicate with differentlyabled kids and my father Mike Pandey, a renowned wildlife conservation filmmaker had its advantages because they themselves never took up mainstream jobs. Growing up in Delhi, my fascination for the wild first began with photos and stamps followed by gigantic books from different countries. Those extraordinary pictures and content made me assume that wildlife existed in people’s fantasy. My first few summer vacations to Mussoorie and her surrounding mountains is still special to me because I came across real stuff—the sounds and sights of the forests and National Parks.
How often did you visit Mussoorie as a kid? Tell us about one special moment that pops up in your mind right now.
We went to Mussoorie every year for a month at a time. It was a different place then, much quieter and a lot of nature around us. It still has got some pretty wild corners left which are amazing to explore. One of my earliest memories as a 3-year-old though is from Ranthambhore. I remember Uncle Fateh Singh Rathore, the ‘Tiger Guru of India’ walking me down the steps at Jogi Mahal and I felt so small in the middle of a gigantic forest.
What was Pa’s bedtime stories like? Heard little Gautam loved insects...
Oh, Pa told you! Bedtime stories about his birthplace Kenya, of lions, giraffes, zebras made a long-lasting impact. Lion King is exactly how I imagined it. I think this drew me closer to animals. We always had a rescued or adopted animal with us. Dogs, kites, fallen chicks, reptiles and once a camel. Then, as a self-proclaimed wannabe entomologist, I collected dead insects and examined them under a magnifying glass. Bugs are amazing!
Did you take formal training in filmmaking?
After 8 years of working and learning to become a wildlife cinematographer, I signed up for an advanced film course at Sheridan College and spent a year and a half in Canada.
What was your biggest mistake as a cinematographer?
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River Yamuna to Get Bubble Curtain
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Inviting Birds of All Feathers
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Sultanpur National Park
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