As the 95th Academy Awards unveiled the winners of this year, we saw Netflix documentary The Elephant Whisperers by Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga win an Oscar for the Best Documentary Short Film category. The documentary is based on the lives of Bomman and Bellie, a couple who took in and cared for orphaned baby elephants named Raghu and Ammu.
The film took five years to make, Gonsalves began the project in 2017 and finished it in 2022. And it was finally released in December 2022. If it weren’t for Bomman and Bellie we wouldn’t have received such wonderful insight into the natural world, and how we can interact with it with much more compassion. The couple belongs to the indigenous Kattunayakan tribe and cares for orphan elephant babies at the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu.
Bomman belongs to a family of mahouts (elephant caregivers) and works at Theppakadu Elephant Camp, the oldest elephant camp in Asia. Bellie met Bomman while being on the same journey to take care of elephants and that’s when they got married.
The duo were given an injured baby elephant in 2017 to take care of. They named him Raghu. And soon, the family of three, came across Ammu, another baby elephant that the couple took in and began raising. Over time the four of them became a family.
Though later, Raghu was taken in by another mahout, and Bomman and Bellie had to bid goodbye to him. The separation was a truly sad one for the rest of the family.
The love that the couple has given to Raghu and Ammu is endearing, to say the least. And the primary reason Kartiki Gonsalves decided to document their journey and how well they took care of the elephant calves was to show the world the role indigenous communities play in preserving nature and the wildlife.
Which, by the way, she has clearly succeeded in. Bellie and Bomman’s love for both Ammu and Raghav is touching to see, and we’re thrilled at the recognition the film has received.