Bomman and Bellie vs The Elephant Whisperers team: Why the mahouts demand compensation and what's the friction?

The Elephant Whisperers documentary is now a globally popular and critically acclaimed creation where it delves into the lives of a couple in Tamil Nadu who are mahouts - Bomman and Bellie. The documentary was set at Theppakadu Elephant camp in Mudumalai, Tamil Nadu. Interestingly, the documentary went on to win the Oscars and the couple had garnered a huge reputation. 

The documentary was helmed by Kartiki Gonsalves and bankrolled by Guneet Monga and Sikhya Entertainment. It was released on Netflix and when the documentary had decorated the resplendent Oscar stage, it turned heads across and beyond the borders. The couple Bomman and Bellie have become stars that they had received a grand reception. 

Bomman and Bellie were felicitated by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin and they were visited by high-profile leaders including the Indian President. Though the documentary had put more light on the lives of mahouts, it has now sparked a controversy as recently, it was appeared that Bomman and Bellie weren't at good terms with The Elephant Whisperers team. 

Bomman and Bellie have alleged that the team didn't keep up its promise and didn't provide remuneration so far. In a recent interview in a YouTube channel, the couple had levelled various allegations against director Kartiki Gonsalves and Sikhya Entertainment, including exploitation, harassment, and threats. The couple had also said that they have paid for the wedding scene in the documentary and Kartiki Gonsalves is yet to return their money. Now, it has come to a revelation that the couple had sent a legal notice to the makers. 

In the legal notice, Bomman and Bellie have demanded Rs 2 crore in compensation. According to reports, the couple said that they were promised a proper house, an all-terrain vehicle, and a lump sum of money in financial support by Kartiki Gonsalves and the makers. The couple noted that they didn't receive fair benefits from the huge commercial gains made by the makers. 

The notice said that even though a sum of Rs 2 crore wouldn't be a reasonable share of profit considering the enormous financial gains that the documentary film has made in India as well as abroad by now. The couple further noted that they would be satisfied with the amount that would take care of their housing and other basic needs to their livelihood. 

By citing that the praises and awards cannot eliminate the poverty and poor living conditions, the couple in their notice said that money alone can improve the standards of their lives. It is pertinent to note that after the documentary had won the Oscars, the Tamil Nadu government announced a house for Bomman and Bellie and a reward of Rs 1 lakh each while the director, Kartiki Gonsalves was conferred with Rs 1 crore. 

On the other hand, a recent report from India Today said that Bomman had backtracked from his earlier statement that went against Kartiki Gonsalves. As per the India Today report, Bomman said, "I didn't say I would take back the case if my demands are met. I don't know what happened there and I don't know who sent the legal notice. Kartiki spoke to me well and said that she would help me." 

Responding to the allegations from Bomman and Bellie, one of the makers of the documentary, Sikhya Entertainment said, "Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu MK Stalin has made donations towards assisting the 91 mahouts and cavadis who look after the state's elephants, constructing eco-friendly houses for the caretakers and developing an elephant camp in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve. All claims made are untrue. We have deep respect for all of the contributors of this story and remain driven by the desire to create positive change."