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OPENING OUR EYES TO THE AU ECOSYSTEM - An interview with Harshini Sabay, creator of an inspiring video on the biodiversity of AU

Harshini Sabay, a final year Media Sciences student is not an average senior who is torn between preparing to leave college and desperately trying to schedule get-togethers with juniors to stock up memories before leaving college. An avid wildlife photographer and environmentalist, Harshini was encouraged by Dr. D Sunitha, Asst. Professor, Department of Media Sciences and the CTDT to create a video on the biodiversity of Anna University, Guindy campus along with teammates Balachandar and Kalaichelvan, that has gone viral since its release. On one of her rare days off, Guindy Times caught up with her on the phone to talk about the incredible video she helped create.

Q: Congratulations on the video! We have all seen it circulating among our class groups. Have you now got more recognition since its release?

A: Thank you! I don’t know if I am recognised more among the current set of students, but the video has been extremely popular among the alumni across all three campuses who have been reaching out to us to congratulate our efforts. I am glad that we have been able to show them a side to their college they might have previously missed out on during their years of study. It’s always a joy when people like your creations mainly because it reminds them of something they love.

Q: Let’s talk about the video. There’s a number of incredibly done shots of species I didn’t know existed in the world, at all. There were also a couple of shots of various varieties of snakes. How did you guys manage to put together something this amazing?

A: It took us six to seven months to entirely shoot and edit the video. I always make it a rule to carry my camera around, and sometimes we would do random surveys and I would simply collect footage of the animals and birds I happened to see that day. When our professor found that it was slowing us down, we were able to get the Dean’s permission to shoot in allocated hours, usually 6 – 8 am and 6 – 8 pm. All shots of the snakes were supervised by herpetologists and we are happy with the way things turned out.

Q: Did you always mean to make a video, or was it a spur of the moment decision?

A: Initially, it started out as a research project for the CTDT because I wanted to show everyone studying in and around campus about the life-forms that coexist in the ecosystem around them. We started shooting only during the later stages of my research and thought that the message could reach a lot more people through a video.

Q: You mentioned that you are an environmental conservationist. What annoys you the most when it comes to ecosystems being destroyed?

A: I like to think I am practical first, because I completely understand how crucial development is to the advancement of the society and that improving infrastructure is very important. But I also believe that there are many structures constructed in the name of development which are unnecessary. We are destroying ecosystems that support and enrich the life of so many species that have lived there for centuries. It’s a sad sight to see.

Q: One of the positives about the video’s success is that most people have taken the effort to share it on social media which has triggered phenomenal response. Do you think this platform is the major reason your message has reached the masses?

A: I have always thought that social media is more of a ‘now’ phenomenon. You watch a video, or see a picture and get something out of it after which you promptly forget about it. The greatest challenge to any creator with material designed for social media is the ability to hold the audience’s attention for more than a few minutes and I am glad we have succeeded in doing so.

Q:  Finally, what is the best compliment about the video that you have received so far?

A: Recently, I received an anonymous phone call from one of the Professors in college who wanted to offer his congratulations and asked to know more about the species in the video. Also, our video was screened at the Gallery stage during Agni and we couldn’t be more thankful to the Students’ Association and the Arts’ Society for the recognition. It’s a great feeling to know that our video has paved the way for more students like us to shift their focus onto celebrating the environment.

The Guindy Times applauds Harshini’s efforts and wishes her and the team the very best for the future. 

You can watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPy0hgUYnJ4​


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