Snake Bites Production

I’m off on a month-long assignment to film snakes at the Madras Crocodile Bank. Its an Icon Films production for the BBC.

What’s the film about ?

World Health Organization estimates suggest that over one million people are bitten by snakes in India each year; between 20,000 and 50,000 of these prove fatal, as many as the rest of the world combined. Although shocking, these statistics are still just estimates and as such sadly hold diminished weight. There is presently no conclusive data that confirms exactly what the situation is. But this is all set to change later this year when the Registrar General in Delhi announces the findings of the most extensive survey of snake bites in India ever.  The results are rumored to confirm the most extreme predictions.

So WHY are so many people in India still dying from snake bites each year? India is home to only one of the World’s 10 most deadly snakes yet the number of fatalities far exceeds this statistic.

SNAKE BITES will probe the fascinating natural history that lies behind the report’s findings. Herpetologist, Romulus Whitaker, will unpack not only the statistics but the particular species of snakes that are driving them, taking us on an eye opening excursion through the world of India’s venomous snakes. From the Hook-nosed Sea Snake of the Gulf of Mannar to the Black Cobras of the deserts of Rajasthan, Rom will get up-close and personal with these magnificent animals.

Personally, I’m very excited to work on the project because of the excellent team. We will also be working with some amazing gear. From very high speed Photron SA-3 cameras which were used in Planet Earth to film the sharks, to time-slice rigs which were used in the Matrix movie to get the bullet time sequence.


  1. Meera · September 21, 2009 Reply

    Hi Kalyan,

    This is really nice. Looking forward to some great photographs…!

  2. Aseem Sood · September 21, 2009 Reply

    All the best! Have a nice and safe trip.

  3. Vijesh · September 21, 2009 Reply

    Wow, interesting subject. Good luck and keep posting those photographs!

  4. Mital Patel · September 21, 2009 Reply

    Wish you all the best for the documentary and wish to see it soon as i dont miss any of snakes program as its one of my best hot fav. creature and i wish some day i could able to start capture them.

  5. Preetam Patil · September 21, 2009 Reply

    Hi Kalyan,
    Statistics only tell the half-truth, if not lies. Often in rural India, from what I’ve heard, un-natural deaths such as suicides and murders are shown as snake-bite deaths by police/medical officers to avoid extra accountability. Snake-bite deaths don’t arouse much scrutiny in government records unlike suicides, mal-nutrition or epidemics (except, perhaps, from wildlife experts).

    I hope your project also helps uncover such sociological factors, apart from the biological factors.

    • Kalyan Varma · September 21, 2009 Reply

      The production is a mix of both Preetam. I only understand the natural history part of things. Rom has worked on these issues for many decades now and a big part of our production is actually going to villages, meeting people, understanding the nature and causes of the bites.

  6. Radha · September 21, 2009 Reply

    Sounds great Kalyan.. Good luck to you, Mandy and the rest of the team 🙂

  7. Sandeep R · September 21, 2009 Reply

    Whoa! Great.. All the best!
    Missed catching up with you in Bangalore. Maybe when you are back from Chennai.

  8. Somnath · September 21, 2009 Reply

    Hey Kalyan,

    All the best, for your New Assignments. God Bless, and get some Kick a** story in terms of photographs, so that needy people really gets help and aid for the same.

  9. Ravi Maganti · September 21, 2009 Reply

    All the best!

  10. JD · September 21, 2009 Reply

    Ram Wittaker! I once saw a documentary of his in Nat Geo channel about the same subject; looking forward to the new film. I am tempted to attach a blog entry,, that I had written sometime back regarding the same subject with a picture of few dead snakes; I couldn’t make out what snakes those were (poisonous/ non-poisonous?). I often saw ppl killing even tree snakes (the belief is that they strike at people’s eyes!) Myths, legends and facts all packed into one bag in rural India..

  11. Sumod · September 21, 2009 Reply

    Oh cool. All the best Kalyan and yeah, really great equipments… Waiting for some crazy ass pictures… 🙂

  12. Jag · September 29, 2009 Reply

    Cool…. exciting project, Good Luck.

  13. Dilip · September 29, 2009 Reply

    That’s great! if you require anything while here (Chennai) please do get in touch

  14. Roma · October 2, 2009 Reply

    Sounds really interesting. Good luck!

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