Director Kartiki Gonsalves and producer Guneet Monga weaved magic in the documentary short film ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ which went on to win an Oscar at the 95th Academy Awards. While it’s a massive boost to the careers of both of these women and they have been grabbing headlines since the beginning of the week, our attention also needs to be on the tribal couple who are the true heroes of the documentary, Bomman and Bellie.
In case you haven’t watched the documentary yet, you may click here to read another article.
In an interview with News18, Bomman spoke about coming to the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve 40 years back and working as an elephant caretaker just like his grandfather and father.
“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,” he said.
There were two elephants, Raghu and Ammu, who were shown in the documentary. Bomman and Bellie took care of them like their own children. But after they grew up, they had to be transferred to the forest and they don’t live with the couple anymore.
“They are no longer present here because they have grown up and moved to the forest. 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,” Bomman said.
Surprisingly, the couple has known Kartiki Gonsalves for a very long time. Bomman revealed that she has visited Mudumalai multiple times with her friends. He gives Kartiki credit for sharing their story with the world.
“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,” he said.
‘The Elephant Whisperers’ has now led to Bomman and Bellie being honoured by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
Love respect & gratitude to Bellie & Bomman our unsung heroes. A humble tribute to all our Mahouts and Cavadis for taking care of our precious elephants like #Raghu & #Ammu. They were honoured & felicitated by CM @mkstalin #TheElephantWhisperers #Oscar #Oscar2023 @CMOTamilnadu pic.twitter.com/iVCp2icVpF
— Supriya Sahu IAS (@supriyasahuias) March 15, 2023
We hope the couple are able to see better days because of this win! 🙂
Pictures used in the copy are screenshots from ‘The Elephant Whisperers’.