NGC, Miditech reveal secrets of 'Skeleton Lake'

MUMBAI: Reading between the lines using forensic science! That is what National Geographic will do with its new series Forensic Investigation Report (FIR).

The show will air weekdays at 10 pm from 1 November. The show unravels mysteries behind mysterious deaths and crimes that have baffled people.

NGC senior V-P content and communication Dilshad Master says, "With this programme we are looking at strengthening our crime and mystery block. The pearl of the programme is the documentary film Skeleton Lake, which airs on 9 November. It was made by Miditech and seeks to unravel the secret behind the mass graves at Roopkund Lake in Uttaranchal.

"Skeleton Lake is a prime example of programmes on the channel that push the boundaries of what we understand about our world and at the same time provide credible, compelling programming to our viewers," he adds.

The riddle of Roopkund lake started in 1942 when a forest ranger unearthed a mass grave. Since then various theories have floated about as to why it happened. Miditech roped in German cultural anthropologist William Sax to help uncover the mystery. Sax led an expedition to the area and took samples of skulls, flesh which were then examined in Indian and UK labs. Existing theories like the bodies belonged to an army were then discarded before the truth was arrived at.

NGC's investigation found that there were two ethnic groups involved. One group had people related to one another. There were several women and children. The film took a year and three months to make.

According to Miditech CEO Nikhil Alva who co-wrote the script with his brother Niret Alva, the biggest challenge was making a human story from a cold scientific investigation that viewers could relate to. "It was going to be a huge challenge to make the viewers care about something that happened in the 9th century AD. This was a personal project for me. In college in the mid 1980's while trekking I learnt about this site. Of course at that time there was little television."

He also said, "Then a couple of years ago we met National Geographic at Cannes and learnt that they were going to create a new strand of series. They were keen on doing something that involved India. We suggested this idea for them and they gave the go ahead. We roped in Professor sax as someone who narrates the story because we wanted someone that the global audience could identify with. Sax has a close connection with India and is therefore able to give a complete picture of what is going on."

Alva added that research was the hardest aspect of the project. It took 30-40 per cent of work allocated. "Facts are checked and cross checked by three different sources. That is because we are putting forth an argument here. It had to be backed up by scientific fact. What is interesting is that while we came up with a theory of where exactly the people were from the sample size was too small as per National

Geographic's requirements.

"We had a sample size of 600-700. However the channel requires a sample size between 8,000-10,000. Therefore our theory of where the people were from was not included in the film. For the recreation footage we used hailstorms footage as well as actors.

"In December we will be giving another project to NGC which will be completely different. This will examine why a particular animal species is becoming extinct. That makes three projects from us this year after Leopards Of Bollywood and now Skeleton lake. Next year we will be adding another three. The genres are different and so is our approach. For instance the animal project will not have any recreation footage."

Meanwhile the first episode of FIR examines the Secret Of Einstein's Brain. A rediscovery is done about whether the nature of brain holds the key to the secret of genius. Another episode looks at the macabre Masscare At Putna Lobos. 700 years ago 200 people fishermen had their throats slit by the banks of a river. Their blood flows into the sand and sea painting the coastline dark red. Was this a ritual sacrifice or a mass slaughter meant to fulfill another purpose?

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