For the elderly couple who has been fostering elephants like their children in Tamil Nadu, elephants are their world and they certainly have no idea about the world of Oscars and its historic red carpet. When the documentary about their elephants won prestigious award on an iconic stage, all they have is a smile and commitment to serve the jumbos.
The documentary 'The Elephant Whisperers' was resplendent at the 95th Academy Awards when it was announced as the winner of Best Short Documentary. The Oscars festival was held at Dolby Theatre, Los Angeles, United States and the celebrations and annoucements had raised roof of the auditorium. The icons from across the globe were converged to witness the ceremony but the real heroes of The Elephant Whisperers weren't at the auditorium, they were on the other side of the globe in Tamil Nadu.
At a high time when the human and elephant conflict is on a rise, this remarkable documentary has strived to reduce the gap and to celebrate the bonding between the human and elephants. Released on December 8, 2022, The Elephant Whisperers is about the real-life bonding that develops between a couple and an orphaned baby elephant.
The indigenous couple named Bomman and Belli are mahouts at Theppakkadu elephant camp in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in The Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu. They are looking after the needs of the elephants at the camp and they are also taking care of the orphaned baby elephant named Raghu, who lost its mother. For the baby, the couple turned out to offer care and comfort and fostered it as if they were raising their own children.
The mindblowing documentary has touched millions for the lives of the couple and their elephant troop. The documentary was released directly on Netflix and it was nominated for the Best Documentary Short Film. Finally, it won the Oscars and the entire country was over the moon. When Belli was informed about the award for the documentary, her reply is - 'I don't know about the Oscar award'.
Their names and works were googled and the couple was on the spotlight. Speaking to PTI after the Oscar award, Belli said, "Elephants are like our children. We see it as great service to a child, who lost its mother." She said that she was excited to receive the wishes. She told PTI, "I have reared many such elephants, treated them like my own children, looking after them as a foster mother, particularly those who lose their mothers in the jungle."
Belli said, "This was in our blood, as our ancestors were also working like that, as described by our grandmother, who comes from a mahout family." "I don't know about the award. But I am very happy and excited as congratulations are pouring in", she added. While speaking about her husband Bomman, Belli said that he had gone to Salem to bring an elephant which had some serious problems.
The couple hails from a tribal background and the Nilgiris Adivasi Welfare Association secretary had said that the Oscar award is a recognition to the traditional profession of the tribals. Back in Los Angeles, the team that made documentary was on cloud nine. The Elephant Whisperers director Kartiki Gonsalves and producer Guneet Monga took the centre stage to accept the award.
After lifting the Oscars, producer Guneet Monga took to Twitter and wrote, "We just win the first ever Oscar for an Indian production! Two women did this! I am still shivering." Interestingly, for the Oscar winner Kartiki Gonsalves, it is her director debut and she had spent five years following human-elephant blended family belonging to Kattunayakan tribe to make this documentary, which runs for 39 minutes and covers a strong bond between the elephants and the couple.
#WATCH | "This is the first Oscar for any Indian production & 2 women here have won this. 1.4 Billion Indians, this is for you...this is for my co-producer Achin Jain, team Sikhya, Netflix....", says Guneet Monga, Producer of ‘The Elephant Whisperers' on their Oscar win pic.twitter.com/zO8LiPNXM7— ANI (@ANI) March 13, 2023
Heartiest congratulations to @EarthSpectrum, @guneetm and the entire team of ‘The Elephant Whisperers' for winning the Oscar.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) March 13, 2023
These two women have made India 🇮🇳 proud with their heart-warming showcase of the beauty and importance of wildlife conservation. pic.twitter.com/Ckj2oJMTBa
‘The Elephant Whisperers’ themselves, Bommon and Bellie are the real stars of the show. It is only through their constant support, and willingness to share a piece of their life with the world, that this film won this highest honour. pic.twitter.com/HwjatKQw6W— Netflix India (@NetflixIndia) March 13, 2023