Last Updated: March 15, 2023, 11:37 IST
‘The Elephant Whisperers’ shows the trials of love between the two baby jumbos named Raghu and Ammu, who become trapped in an electric fence, until they are nurtured by tribal couple Bomman and Bellie. (Photo: News18)
‘They promised to shoot a documentary of us and our baby elephant one day when Raghu was here. For close to two years, director Kartiki Gonsalves shot videos at Mudumalai forest,’ said caretaker Bomman, who told News18 several people are calling him to congratulate him on the Oscar win
‘The Elephant Whisperers’ set a new record at the 95th Academy Awards on March 13. The 41-minute documentary by director Kartiki Gonsalves on how a tribal couple in Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiris devote their lives to care for an orphaned baby elephant.
Kartiki Gonsalves was raised in Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiris and attended college in Coimbatore. Theppakadu, a village located within the Mudumalai forest, served as the location for her documentary.
‘The Elephant Whisperers’ explains the trials of love between the two baby jumbos named Raghu and Ammu, who become trapped in an electric fence set up for elephants, until they are nurtured by a tribal couple named — Bomman and Bellie -and let into the forest after years of care.
Speaking to News18 Tamil Nadu, Bomman, the elephant’s caretaker remarked that everyone who works in the forest department, like him, is proud that their documentary won the Oscars. “We belong to the Kattunayakar ancient tribal group and I’m the third generation to work on elephant care at Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, which my grandfather and father did during their time. I came here almost 40 years ago. The year 2017 saw the gift of a young elephant from Thenkanikottai in Krishnagiri district by the forest department officials. I named him Raghu, and kept a close eye. When the baby jumbo first came to me, he was separated from his mother and covered in wounds all over his body. Apparently, they claimed that it is challenging for him to survive, thus I worked very hard in the vain hope of salvaging Raghu. That optimism was justified,” Bomman added.
He further said Bellie was given a newborn elephant from Sathyamangalam, along with instructions on how to take care for it. After some time, Bellie and Bomman got married and had their own home where they reared Raghu and Ammu together.
“They are no longer present here because they have grown up and moved to the forest,” Bomman said. “The motherless cub will be raised by us and released into the wild after some years. We will provide training in a separate cage where newborn elephants are being raised,” he said.
Meanwhile, when Bomman was questioned about the documentary ‘The Elephant Whisperers’, he said, “This film was shot by Kartiki, who I have known for a very long period. She frequently travels to Mudumalai with her friends. They promised to shoot a documentary of us and our baby elephant one day when Raghu was here. For close to two years, they came and shot videos, yet, at the time, we were unaware that there was a lot more to come. Several individuals are calling to congratulate me on the Oscar win. It’s because of director Kartiki, the entire world is acquainted with us today,” Bomman quoted.
The relationship between a couple and a baby jumbo named Raghu is poignantly depicted in the short documentary ‘The Elephant Whisperers’, which can be spotted on Netflix since December 8 last year. Kartiki Gonsalves directed and co-produced the film. Eventually, the documentary was jointly produced by Achin Jain, Guneet Monga, and Doug Blush.
Indeed, ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ scripted history with the first Oscar for an Indian production and a game changer for the Indian documentary arena. Subsequently, Theppakadu Elephant Camp in Tamil Nadu is now crowded with tourists, eager to meet the elephants Raghu and Ammu, who gained fame with the Oscar win.
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