Land of the Tiger (1985) Movie Script

It is winter in Kanha National Park
in central India.
These very same grasslands and
forests were the inspiration
for Rudyard Kipling's immortal
Jungle Book stories.
The spirit of wild India that
he evoked still lives here.
Kanha National Park is
prime tiger country.
Sixty years ago its 363 square miles
were part of vast primordial forests.
Since then these forests have been
denuded on a gigantic scale.
But Kanha has been preserved
in its pristine state.
The tiger still roars here,
still spreads his dread.
Just before dawn
this male tiger killed a sambar stag.
Now, a few hours later,
he drags his prize into deep cover
to hide it
from the prying eyes of vultures.
Like all of his kind he is solitary
for most of his life
a lone hunter who lives by stealth.
The night has been cold.
The gray langur monkeys,
after their first meal of the day,
rest and groom each other
in the warmth of the early sun.
winter is the season of birth
for most langurs.
This newborn, only a few hours old,
is the center of attraction.
The new member of the troop is passed
from one female to another
as many as ten times in half an hour.
It is treated with great curiosity
and affection.
This "aunt" behavior, as it is called,
inducts the infant into the troop,
makes it feel welcome and secure.
The monsoon rains ceased
more than two months ago.
But along the streams the vegetation
is still green.
Grass-shrouded water holes are
perfect hiding places
from which the tiger tries
to ambush the chital.
Despite his power and camouflage
the tiger often fails to make a kill.
Only about one hunt in twenty
ends in success.
In mid-January, when winter
is at its coldest,
the rut of the barasingha
reaches its peak.
During this season of courtship
and mating,
stages bugle and fight
to establish who among them
will mate with the does.
A tigress watches the combat
from her cave
where she is hiding newborn cubs.
Helpless young with great fierceness
and devotion.
It will be some weeks before she will
bring her cubs out into the open.
For the most part, Kanha's tigers
remain elusive and mysterious,
concealed by the dense undergrowth
and the jungles of grass.
But in Ranthambhor National Park
370 miles to the northwest,
the habitat is drier and more open.
In February, early spring in India,
Ranthambhor's 64 square miles
are already parched.
The monsoon rains are only
a vague memory.
But cradled in the hills is
a chain of lakes,
and it is because of this permanent
water that wild animals flourish here.
Unlike pristine Kanha,
Ranthambhor has a long history
of human occupation
dating back to the 11th century.
Dominating the reserve
is Ranthambhor fort.
Now deserted by man, the fort
has become the haunt of animals.
Centuries ago it was the focal point
of a vigorous city.
Battles raged back and forth
over the hills.
In more recent times villages thrived
deep inside Ranthambhor.
But their inhabitants have also gone.
They were encouraged to settle
on better land outside the park.
Monuments to forgotten dramas
dot the reserve.
This stone marks the spot where
a widow committed suttee
where she burned herself alive
on her husband's funeral pyre.
Only the ruins remain.
Man has moved out of Ranthambhor after
almost a thousand years
and returned it to the wildlife.
On this cool spring morning it is not
an ancient warrior who keeps vigil,
but a tigress on the lookout for sambar,
her favorite prey.
When the sambar lie down to chew
their cud, they are still out of range
The tigress waits patiently.
The deer's senses of smell
and hearing are acute,
but their vision is only moderate.
As long as he tigress moves
very, very slowly
or remains motionless
she cannot be been by them,
even when only 30 or 40 feet away.
Her camouflage hides her completely.
The wind shifts and
the tigress is scented.
The hunt is over.
A tigress stakes her claim to
her home range
by spraying prominent trees and bushes
Male tigers mark their territories
in a symbolic fashion.
The size of a tiger's home range
thus marked out varies widely.
On the average a female's territory
is some ten square miles.
Males have much larger territories
which overlap those of the females.
When one tiger smells the scent
of another
it grimaces in what is
called a "flehmen" display.
By following scent markings
and listening for roars,
males and females find each other.
The pair stays together for two or
three days and mates frequently
for some periods as often
as every 10 to 15 minutes.
The hills are almost devoid
of nutritious grazing.
The sambar must come to the lake
to feed on water plant.
The deer and the mugger crocodiles
share the lake peaceably.
The sambar are nervous and uneasy
ready to flee at the slightest sound
or movement.
The constant and hidden menace
of the tiger haunts their every move.
Though he failed to make a kill,
as is so often the case,
this exceptionally bold
and athletic male specializes in
hunting from ambush around the lakes.
Early the next morning this same tiger
finally killed a sambar in the lake.
But to his fury the crocodiles
have snatched it from him.
Intimidated by the crocodiles'
strangely aggressive behavior,
the tiger reluctantly retreats.
But like all of his kind he does not
give up his quarry easily.
For nine hours the tiger waits.
When sambar come down to drink,
he is not distracted from his purpose.
Finally he summons up enough courage
to reclaim his kill.
The water is deep, and it takes
a supreme feat of strength
to swim through the water plants
while dragging the 250-pound sambar.
The crocodiles' teeth are designed to
seize and hold prey,
not to cut through skin.
During all the hours the sambar lay
in the water,
they were unable to penetrate
the deer's tough hide.
The crocodiles make a few
token objections,
but in the end give up
without a struggle.
During the night a tigress has
brought down a large sambar doe.
The ever present tree pies
are already in attendance.
The birds eat only miniscule amounts,
but the tigress resents any
interference with her kill
and relentlessly chases them off.
Her usual strategy for dealing with
constantly pestering scavengers
would be to drag the carcass
to a hiding place.
But this kill is too heavy,
the terrain too difficult.
Another ruse would be to cover it
with dry grass or leaf litter.
But these are absent here,
and the stones she tries to
rake over her prize are ineffectual.
The only thing left to do
is to guard her kill
by virtually lying on top of it.
The kill is well worth protecting
for she can expect to feed on it
for four days or more.
The next morning the tigress
in not at her kill.
During the night it has been wrested
from her by a male.
She watches from a distance while
the male feeds on her sambar.
Wisely the tigress does not stay to
dispute the ownership of the kill.
She retreats to a spring
deep in a ravine.
Another tigress did fight over a kill.
She came off second best.
Spring is the rutting season
for the sambar in Ranthambhor.
The stages spray themselves
with their male scent.
In this way they become more
attractive to the does
and more intimidating to other males.
In April, as spring changes to summer,
it becomes drier and hotter.
For the sambar the squeeze
between the need to drink
and eat in the lakes
and running the gauntlet of tigers
in ambush becomes ever tighter.
The sambar,
alert and cautious at all times,
cannot see the tiger.
To them the tall grass
is like a blank wall.
May is the height of summer
in Ranthambhor.
Tigers stay close to the water holes.
Another six weeks of
relentless heat must pass
before the monsoon brings relief.
Kanha, in the meantime,
has also dried out in the summer heat.
But because it is a less arid region,
many trees and shrubs remain green.
The streams have ceased to flow.
Only sporadic water holes remain.
Moisture is at a premium.
Even a patch on wet sand is prized
by a blizzard of thirsty butterflies.
The cubs of the cave-dwelling
tigress have grown.
The two, a male and a female,
are now five months old.
The cave has a commanding view,
and the tigress keeps watch for
possible prey
and for anything that may be
a threat to her cubs.
In late afternoon the tigress sets
off to hunt.
The cubs follow her.
Before she has gone very far
the tigress meets a real danger
to her young,
the resident male tiger.
She calls on all her ferocity to
challenge the much larger animal.
Territorial males, which are
known to kill cubs,
are the main threat
to the young tigers.
After the frightening confrontation,
the female cub seeks reassurance.
The summer heat continues.
Every day it is 105 degrees
or more in the shade.
The few water holes are shrinking.
Animals must travel long distances
to drink.
As in Ranthambhor, there is a constant
threat from the well camouflaged tigers
A white-breasted kingfisher
has taken up residence
and bathes frequently to cool himself.
Langur monkeys spend hours licking salt
and other minerals from the rocks
that surround the pool.
The water hole attracts a multitude
of birds.
Even the shy red junglefowl, the gaudy
ancestor of the domestic chicken,
must leave the protection of
the forest to drink.
A lesser adjutant stork probes
the water hole for fish and frogs.
The checkered keelback snake is
an unwelcome visitor
treated with circumspection
by the other animals.
But the reptile is no threat
to most of them.
It is non-venomous and
a confirmed fish-eater.
The deserted water hole no longer
has any interest for the tiger.
When the oppressive heat
of the day abates,
the barasingha emerge from
the forest to drink.
It is a time too when the tigress
and her cubs leave their cave.
Before she sets out to feed
on the remains of a sambar
she killed two nights ago,
the tigress suckles her young
during an interlude of
extraordinary peace and tenderness.
This morning the tigress did not bring
the cubs to her kill
even though they are old enough
to eat meat for themselves.
Danger in the form of the male tiger
is still near.
When the male approaches,
she hides the remains of her prey,
covering it with leaves.
She will stay with in
until the threat has passed.
Early June is the hottest,
driest time of the year.
The shade temperature rises
to 110 degrees.
Tigers suffer more than most animals
in this heat.
Then one day in mid-June,
as the koel and the brainfever
bird scream for rain,
a cool wind whips up;
the air becomes humid.
The monsoon has finally arrived.
For four days it rains
sometimes lightly, sometimes in torrents.
The temperature drops about 20 degrees
The heat, the dry streams,
the brittle bleached grasses,
the aridity of eight virtually
rainless months
have disappeared at one stroke.
After the monsoon's first days of rain
the sun briefly reappears.
Kanha has been transformed,
has taken on a cloak of fresh new green.
Termites celebrate the onset on
the monsoon with mating flights.
Velvet-textured mites erupt out of
the ground and feast on the termites.
Male bullfrogs vie for the females
in duels of sound.
Life has been liberated by the rain.
Plants explode into untrammeled growth
The new lushness attracts hordes
of leaf-eating insects,
and when the caterpillars unleash
their appetites on the monsoon's bounty,
they are an effective restraint
on the new leaves.
In July, when the monsoon
is firmly established,
the chital gather on the grassland,
which soon reverberate with the sounds
and energy of their rut.
A peacock unfurls his train a symbol
for the renewal and exuberance of life
A predator other than the tiger,
and one feared by all the animals,
moves down from the hills
at this time of year,
spreading disquiet in forest
and grassland alike.
It is the Indian wild dog.
No animal is safe from these marauders
and even the mighty tiger will usually
avoid a direct confrontation.
The dogs move in packs that
may number up to 30.
though an individual wild dog
could never challenge the supremacy
of the tiger,
large packs have been known
to attack him.
During such a fight the big cat can
inflict heavy casualties.
Once a besieged tiger destroyed 12 dogs
before he himself was killed and eaten
As the younger dogs play,
they are watched by a mob
of near-hysterical chital.
The herd rushes into the forest
where the pack will soon follow.
The incapacitated are left behind.
The lush grasses lure the reclusive gaur,
or Indian bison,
out of their forest strongholds.
These are the largest wild
cattle in the world.
A large bull stands over six feet
at the shoulder
and may weight up to 2,000 pounds.
The adults have little to fear
from the tiger.
It is the calves and yearlings
that are vulnerable.
Whenever a tiger is detected,
when the cows and bulls snort
and toss their heads in threat
the big cat has no chance
of making a kill.
To the contrary, an alerted herd
can be a danger to the tiger.
At the turn of the century some 40,000
tigers stalked India's jungles.
By 1972 they numbered fewer than 2000.
This grim fact was the signal
for courageous
and far-reaching conservation efforts.
These have been so effective that
if the tiger is to survive in the wild
its best chance is now probably
in India,
in reserves like Kanha and Ranthambhor
where the tiger has already made
an impressive comeback.
With Kanha's riches restored
by the monsoon,
the tiger is no longer tied to
a few scant water holes.
It wanders widely and leaves the plains
for the denser vegetation of the hills
A green curtain is drawn over
its presence,
and the tiger becomes more
elusive than ever,
a hidden force that inspires
even greater dread
among all the animals
that live under its tyranny.