Meet Malaika Vaz, the 20 year-old NatGeo Wildlife Filmmaker and Reformer
" Filmmaking for me is a way to express everything I experienced but couldn't put together in words"
Malaika Vaz is one who believes that 80 years in this world is too short and that there are too many things one needs to explore, experience and educate before they bite the dust. Wasting time was just not an option for Malaika.
When we heard about Malaika and her work, we were prepared to meet a 20-year-old girl passionate about filmmaking but as she started speaking to us, we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of clarity of thought and passion she had for a dozen of other things she is equally passionate about. She is a National Level Windsurfing champion, PADI Dive Master, Endurance horse rider and sailor. Malaika’s expeditions and adventures have taken her across all 7 continents, and she is the youngest person to participate in research expeditions to Antarctica and the Arctic apart from being the youngest Indian to get a pilot's license. She works to empower women, victims of violence, disadvantaged youth and children from Inuit communities through her organization ‘Kriya: Empowerment through Action.’ She is the Director of the Indo-Pak Climate Peace conference and the Project Lead for the Manta Trust in India. As of 2017, Malaika is also the Founder and Director of Untamed Planet Films - a production house creating innovative and compelling natural history content.
To sum it all up, at the age of 20, she is a National Geographic Explorer, adventure sports athlete, social entrepreneur and wildlife filmmaker but has experiences and stories that would last a lifetime.
MALAIKA GROWING UP:
Born and raised in the Land of Feni, Goa, Malaika always found herself enchanted by the ocean. She never wasted an opportunity to be close to the water. Which is when windsurfing and Scuba diving caught her attention and has remained an integral part of her even today. She went to a school where she got to interact with people from all across the globe and from varying societal backgrounds. This altered the way she looked at problems.
Filmmaking for her began as a tool to express and get across what her adventures were like to people which she couldn’t do with words satisfactorily. This evolved to filmmaking for a cause with a stronger voice and cause each time. She would often bring home stray animals from school and that love for animals became a stepping stone towards choosing wildlife filmmaking as a career in the future.
WATERS THAT MALAIKA EXPLORED:
Malaika has always strived to explore as many ventures as she can and be unstoppable. At a very young age, Malaika was part of the Junior Team for Wind Surfing with a bright future to represent India Internationally and is one sport that she holds very close to heart. At the age of 16, she went to Canada to get her Pilot’s license as she would have had to wait 2 more years to get one in India. On her 4th flight she crash-landed her plane due to an engine failure but with some quick thinking and “Jugaad”, managed to land her aircraft on a Canadian farmer's land and later joined him for some pancake and Maple Syrup.
She went horseback riding tracing the path of Genghis Khan, put behind bars at the age of 19, suspected of terrorism in Mongolia, cut off from any form of communication and still managed to get her way out of it by herself. She has travelled to all the 7 continents, exploring all the corners of the world.
With the help of her faculty, she founded an Organization titled ‘Kriya” that helps rehabilitate Women out of Abuse by teaching them various skills and sports. This was her way of democratizing sports for all so that they can make a living out of it someday and be confident enough to stand up for themselves.
Her love for animals never faded and soon she was documenting the relationship between humans and the big cats. She bagged a Nat Geo Explorer grant to shoot Tigers, Lions and Leopards in India. She is the only youth and first Indian to bag the National Geographic talent grant. This is given to only 1 youth, between the age of 18 to 25 around the world, at the Green Oscars which is held at Bristol between the age of 18 to 25.
She felt while growing up, that the opportunities she had and the people she worked with were able to do what they do because they were blessed to have access to the facilities and services they had. Her goal was to try and open those opportunities for everyone and that is what she works towards even today.
Malaika likes to keep exploring and discovering. She often questions herself and wonders if she is doing enough. She believes that having access to things that half the world doesn’t have or being able to be in a position where you have a voice, gives you a responsibility to use it wisely and also give back to the community. Conserving our planet and the species that are a part of it is something she continues to work for through her filmmaking. She believes in bringing a change in the way wildlife is looked at through her films. Malaika is now presenting the TV series 'On The Brink' for Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. She works every day to conquer newer territories, constantly proving that age, gender and everything else is insignificant when it comes to bringing a change and working for what you stand for.