India: Nature's Wonderland, BBC2 - TV review: Stunning footage but David Attenborough can rest easy

While Liz Bonnin was a welcome narrator, Freida Pinto was not so natural, and Jon Gupta had something of the gap year YouTuber about him

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The Independent Culture

There's a reason why the BBC's big-hitting nature documentaries usually have one narrator: so viewers keep their eyes firmly on the painstakingly captured prize. India: Nature's Wonderland had three, and only Liz Bonnin was up to Attenborough's standards, I fear.

Bonnin's been busy of late. In the past couple of weeks viewers have seen her in California being surprised by blue whales and the like for Big Blue Live. But she was a welcome returnee for this sometimes stilted two-parter. She was tracking rare Asiatic lions, Asian elephants and, memorably, hornbills. "The sound of the wings through the forest at dawn, there's nothing more glorious, is there?" She was breathless as she watched the birds in the rainforest; her enthusiasm and passion enhanced the picture, rather than distracted from it.

Mumbai-born actress Freida Pinto was not as natural a narrator. OK, so when she fulfilled a lifelong dream to see a baby elephant, we shared in her joy as the little calf took her hand with its trunk. But if we wanted to see the actress at work, we'd watch Slumdog Millionaire.

That left Jon Gupta as a bit of a spare part up in the Himalayas. He was following in his grandfather's footsteps, seeking out the beginnings of the River Ganges at Devprayag and eventually bathing in its holy waters. He had something of the gap year YouTuber about him, but that wasn't necessarily his fault – with no animal life to focus on, he could have done with a human-interest angle to beef up his sections.

Presenters aside, this did have some top-drawer footage, both animal and human: the slow-motion shot of the hornbill regurgitating its catch to its waiting young was as mesmerising as the wobbling big-cat-painted bellies of the men participating in the Puli Kali Tiger Dance in south India, but this will not have Sir David looking over his shoulder.

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