During the lockdown, Salil also started feeding the strays, and now considers them to be his neighbourhood pets. However, this raised quite a few eyebrows. “Concerned friends called me and told me to be careful about touching animals during Covid times. I didn’t know what to tell these well-educated yet ill-informed people,” he rues, pointing out that it is this man-animal conflict that he is trying to address in his film. “There are people who come all guns blazing at you when you feed strays, claiming that the more you feed, the more will gather, and dirty the area. People have forgotten that they don’t own the streets and pavements, and that strays have rights over the land too,” fumes Salil.
As a crime and horror-thriller writer, he says he is appalled by this behaviour. “Whenever I read cruelty cases, my heart breaks. It is sociopathic behaviour; the FBI classifies this as serial killer behaviour. But here, people get away with it scot-free,” he sighs, adding that he hopes that the documentary will go beyond the movie to become a movement. “What I really hope to achieve with this documentary is an amendment in the Prevention of Cruelty To Animals Act, 1960. I find it absurd that the law levies only a Rs 50 fine on acts of cruelty towards animals. These frustrated people who harm animals are the ones capable of harming their own loved ones too. If my film helps get the Animal Welfare Bill over the finishing line, it will be a bigger achievement than any award I can ever win,” asserts Salil, who has also managed to rope in several celebrity voices for the film, including Shraddha Kapoor and Jim Sarbh.
Besides the bigger cause, the filmmaker also wants to sensitise people to the plight of stray animals. “More than ‘adopt, don’t shop’, the film advocates the cause of community adoption. If every society or building can adopt these free-roaming pets and split the expenses amongst themselves, these animals will be taken care of. This is the only way to solve the problem; the government or NGOs alone can’t do anything about it,” he reiterates.
While it is now a 2-hour-45-minute movie, Salil had set out to make it a 15-minute one only. “It was supposed to be only a 2-3 day project but it kept growing, and I let it. I realised it has to be a well-rounded approach. Animal lovers will obviously watch it but I wanted everyone to watch it. I love the format of ‘Saturday Night Live’, so, I adapted it to fit my documentary. It is quirky and fun but in no manner has the message been diluted,” promises the filmmaker.
Ask him what inspired the quirky name and he explains, “Boo Boo is a cat and Cuddly Poo is a dog–they are animated characters in the film and are named after my own stray pets. The idea is to make people see the strays around them as these cute creatures and refer to them in the same way, with terms of endearment that boyfriends-girlfriends use for each other–instead of the harsh ‘kutta’ or ‘billi’ so that they feel affectionate towards them”.