The Elephant Whisperers – when I watched this short film from India for the first time in December 2022, I knew it was special. It is about the parental-like bond between the tribal couple and the baby elephant.
Their mutual love and respect for each other (the baby elephants and their caretakers) shown in this film make you emotional. It tugs at your heartstrings. At the back of my mind, I knew that its universal theme was going to strike a cord among its audience. Since then, I have rewatched it a few more times. Also, I became an active advocate of this heart-rending short documentary, among my family and friends.
With the shrinking of the forest cover, we are witnessing ever-increasing cases of the tug-of-war between wild animals (including elephants) and humans. Besides, the non-recognition of the dedicated elephant corridors in India by the government has also led to an unprecedented rise in accidents and conflicts. Anyway, for those, who have yet to watch the said documentary – it is about the peaceful co-existence and understanding between humans and the so-called wild animals.
The Elephant Whisperers documentary:- trailer
Even now, you can watch it on Netflix India. Its audio is available in English, Hindi, and Tamil languages. I watched it in the Tamil language with English subtitles – so as not to lose the true essence of this story.
Bomman and Bellie, a (Adivasi) couple in south India, devote their lives to caring for an orphaned baby elephant named Raghu, forging a family like no other. (Please note – I have added Adivasi word here.)Netflix India | Nature & Ecology Documentaries
My friends and family members too loved – The Elephant Whisperers. In fact, because of its universal subject, we all felt that it was worthy of finding a much larger appreciation both from India and abroad.
The Elephant Whisperers documentary:- brief note
After watching this poignant documentary, I read a good number of news articles about it, however, the coverage in Chennai-based magazine was better than most. In that piece, it was mentioned that the director Kartiki Gonsalves wished to show the importance of the indigenous people, the Kattunayakan community, and their immense knowledge of the forest and its organisms in her documentary.
The Elephant Whisperers narrates the story of Bomman and Bellie, a middle-aged couple who belong to the indigenous Kattunayakan tribe, and their heartwarming relationship with the baby elephant Raghu and later with Ammu, another calf elephant, who they received from the Tamil Nadu government-run Theppakadu elephant camp to, technically speaking, tame and train.Frontline Magazine | Jinoy Jose P
It showcased the beautiful bond between the elderly tribal couples and the orphaned baby elephant, which they care for and raise like a young child with their amazing love and unbelievable empathy.
The Elephant Whisperers documentary:- poster
The Elephant Whisperers documentary:- details
|Release Date||December 8, 2022|
|Producers||Kartiki Gonsalves, Guneet Monga, Achin Jain, Doug Blush|
|Awards||Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Film (Oscar Award 2023)|
And the Oscar Award goes to …
Then after its release, only in three months – The Elephant Whisperers won the much coveted Oscar Award 2023 for the best documentary short film; much to the delight of its creators and the rest of India.
While receiving the Oscar award filmmaker Kartiki Gonsalves mentioned the tribal wisdom and the sacred bond between the indigenous people and the natural world – not to forget their co-existence for centuries.
“I stand here today to speak on the sacred bond between us and our natural world. For the respect of indigenous communities. For entity towards other living beings, we share our space with. And finally for co-existence. Thank you to the academy for recognizing our film highlighting indigenous people and animals. To Netflix for believing in the power of this film. To Bomman and Belli for sharing their sacred tribal wisdom. To Guneet my Producer. My mentor and my entire team and finally, to my mother, father and sister who are up there somewhere, you’re the centre of my universe. To my motherland India.“Kartiki Gonsalves | Oscar Award 2023 Speech
Besides all the awards and the accolades, one of the good things that have come out of this Oscar Award is the recognition of the tireless wildlife conservation work being carried out by incredible people like Bomman and Bellie at the grassroots level.
Kudos to the young filmmaker Kartiki Gonsalves – who undertook a five-year journey to create this Oscar award-winning nature documentary – The Elephant Whisperers. Besides acknowledging on the world stage, the important role of indigenous people like – Bomman and Belli – in the conservation of nature and wildlife, not only in India but around the world.
Tamil Nadu CM gave away cash awards…
“Received and made the activities of our forest department known to the world. In appreciation of Bomman and Belli, I gave Rs. 1 lakh and announced Rs. 1 lakh each for the 91 employees of Theppakkad and Kozhikamuthi Elephant Camps and Rs. 9.10 crore for building houses.”Tamilnadu CM M.K. Stalin | Tamil to English translation of his tweet
Focus:- Bellie – the tribal woman in the documentary
We are keeping our fingers crossed. Moreover, we are hoping and praying that the world will try to understand and appreciate the sacred tribal wisdom of co-existence with the natural world.
Another Oscar Award Winner 2023 From India - Naatu Naatu Song.
We have updated the article to add new developments
The tribal couple Bomman and Bellie from The Elephant Whisperers documentary have sent a legal notice to the filmmaker Kartiki Gonsalves asking for Rupees 2 crore as compensation and a goodwill gesture.
Their legal notice states that the couple were promised a proper house, an all-terrain multi-purpose vehicle and sufficient financial support as a one-time lump sum payment as compensation, based on the income generated from the said documentary project. According to their legal notice, it seems that the filmmaker has cornered all the financial rewards from the said documentary.
When President Droupadi Murmu visited the Theppakadu Elephant Camp at Mudumalai Tiger Reserve and met Bomman, Bellie and others.
And once again Netflix India posted this beautiful picture on 24th March 2023.
When Indians recognize and applaud – silent and hardworking people like Bomman and Bellie.
Netflix India posted this beautiful picture on 23rd March 2023.
India’s Prime Minister met the wonderful Bomman and Belli, along with the elephants – Bommi and Raghu.
Featured Image: Bomman and Belli with elephants | Netflix India.