Glory to India means a lot to us, say elephant whisperers
“Elephant Whisperers” is based on the bond Mahout Bomman and his wife Bellie developed for the injured baby elephant Raghu they looked after
Chennai When The Elephant Whisperers won the Best Documentary Short film award at the Academy Awards on Monday morning (India time), one of its protagonists, Bomman, was doing what he does best -- out looking for two orphaned elephant calves.
Which was only apt.
The 40-minute documentary, directed by Kartiki Gonsalves and produced by Guneet Monga, is based on the life and work of Bomman and his wife Bellie (another of the movie’s protagonists) who foster orphaned elephant calves. The stars of the documentary, however, are its elephants, calves Ammu and Raghu.
Raghu was abandoned by his herd in Tamil Nadu’s Mudumalai reserve after being injured, and was rescued by the Tamil Nadu forest department and given into the care of Bomman and Bellie.
Bomman, 54, said he has been busy caring for elephants and has not found the time yet to watch the documentary.
“I still do not know anything about this [Oscar],” Bomman told HT, speaking on phone from Dharmapuri, where he is looking for two calves after three elephants caring for them were electrocuted last week.
“But I understand that it is very important because everyone has been telling me that this earned India much glory. So that means a lot to us,” he added.
Bomman, employed as a mahout by the Tamil Nadu forest department, is hoping he can find the two calves soon; he wants to go back home (to Thepakkadu Elephant Camp, in the Mudumalai reserve), and hopefully, watch the documentary.
Bomman and Bellie are both from the Kattunayakan tribe, traditional dwellers of the Mudumalai forests. Bomman said he was rushed to Dharmapuri after three elephants were electrocuted there on March 7 when they came in contact with an illegal electric fence. “Two calves were orphaned after their mothers died here. We went in search of them yesterday (Sunday) and it looks like they have gone into the forest.”
Bomman, who travels out of Mudumalai only to rescue elephants, said he spoke to Bellie on Monday morning after he was flooded with phone calls when the news about the Oscar broke.
The documentary was filmed in the picturesque Mudumalai forests of the Nilgiris district. It shows the couple first taking care of Raghu, and later Ammu. The documentary shows the calves growing up under the couple’s care before being transferred to another mahout.
Bomman and Bellie describe the elephant calves as their children in the film.
“We have to do something for Raghu and Ammu once I get back (to celebrate)...I miss them, but what can I do? ” Bomman said.
He added that he thinks he has cared for 84 elephants. “They filmed us casually now and then. It was not like some film set where there was direction and a lot of people,” said Bomman. “About five people would come, film what we were doing for a week and leave and come back again.”
The couple, who lost their son while the film was being made, was yet to speak to The Elephant Whisperers director Kartiki Gonsalves on Monday when Bomman spoke to HT.