A couple from a big city, Radha (Nandana Sen) and Pritam (Ankur Vikal) are on vacation in the Indian jungle to sort out a troubled marriage when they run into the wife’s ex-lover, Abhishek (Javed Jaffrey) and his son Arjun (Salim Ali). As husband and lover lock horns for the woman, primitive instincts find voice in the wilderness and they become blind to signs of a lurking presence. A starving leopard has been shot by poachers and can’t hunt his normal prey. Desperate for a kill he turns on the weakest animal in the jungle – man. In a night of terror, survival will depend on outwitting a formidable hunter of the wild, a perfect killer who has become so accustomed to hunting man that he’s begun to think like us…
“A confident debut feature… a distinctive take on the deadly man-animal conflict… Kumar never lets go… building the tension and suspense bit by bit… leading to a final explosion of violence that is as shocking as it is cathartic. A winner!”
— Saibal Chatterjee
The Sunday Indian
“A curious mix of fact and fiction, The Forest takes us into the heart of a dense jungle and confronts us with our worst fears”
— Shubhra Gupta
The Indian Express
“The slick screenplay keeps you hooked to the human drama. With several moments which would do any Hollywood thriller proud. Kudos to… camerawork and the bang-on background score which keep you on tenterhooks. Ashvin Kumar has made a fine, impactful film… the message that human integration is harmful to the ecology without being preachy.”
— Devesh Sharma
“Fifteen minutes into the movie, fear is on the prowl. The leopard, undoubtedly the protagonist, can pounce onto the screen any moment, and its presence looms threateningly.”
— Janani Ganesan
We had to film our leopard sequences in Thailand as animal protection laws prohibit the filming of captive animals in India. Thierry Le Portier (Gladiator, Two Brothers, Life of Pi). Leopards are one of the hardest of the big cats to train. Kali and Joy, the leopards seen in The Forest were flown from Paris to Bangkok. Our Thai team found forests that resembled those filmed in India. We rebuilt the roof of the rest-house to match the roof sequences shot in India. Using split screens and blue screens, the actors were merged with the leopard sequences.
“Horror lies not in what is visible, but in that which is not and the fear of what it can do to you”
Special Effects & Prosthetics
The Forest drew upon the skills of French prosthetics and make-up expert, Guillaume Castagne (Kiss of the Dragon, Transporter 3), who delivered the frighteningly realistic, mutilated human-limbs and bodies, which result from a mauling by a big-cat.
The original music of the film was written by composer Matt Robertson and performed by the London Metropolitan Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios. The Indian instruments were recorded in New Delhi. Matt sent his compositions over the internet and we would discuss the score by video-conference each night.This cost effective way of working between two continents allowed us to make the recording at Abbey Road a reality. Or a surreality – Pink Floyd, The Beatles all over the walls. This is where The Lord of the Rings was scored. U2 had a booking after us and here we were, pinching ourselves, sitting on the same sofa as all of them.
Filming Wild Animals
Wildlife film-makers spend months, if not years, trying to capture the tiger, one of the most elusive animals on our planet. It was clear to me that, apart from the leopard, there would be no compromise on the other wild-animals seen in the film. I wanted the audience to share the thrill that I had experienced seeing these magnificent creatures for the first time in the wild. If its hard to spot a tiger, to be in the right position to film it and then match-it to a sequence being shot elsewhere, is a tall-order. My generation grew-up on the enduring images of Indian wildlife captured by Green-Oscar winning filmmakers Naresh and Rajesh Bedi, who took-up the challenge of doing-so in a week!
There was every possibility that they would return empty handed and tensions were running high for we’d reached the last day of filming and no tigers. The footage arrived in the nick-of-time – not the one tiger I’d asked for, but five – a tigress with four cubs! I re-designed my shots to make it look like the actors and animals were in the same location when in-fact the tigers were shot in Bandavgarh and the actors in Corbett, two-thousand kilometres apart. They matched seamlessly, without the aid of Visual Effects or digital post-production.
I imagined the Kumaon of Jim Corbett and tried to recreate his spirit; those curled up nights reading his man-eater tales and the spell that his storytelling cast on me. The stalking of a man-eater alone, on foot and the deep respect for his adversary came with the chilling awareness that on such a mission, the line between the hunter and the hunted would always be in his disfavor. Only someone who has stepped into the silky darkness of an Indian jungle on a moonless night can place into context what those exploits meant.
This film is about our inadequacies when confronted by the forces of nature and our frightening ignorance as to the effects of its disruption.
“Kumar’s script is remarkably tight, the laser-like focus turns…into a genuinely gripping thriller. Incredible management of limited resources…”
— J Hurtado