An indigenous couple in Tamil Nadu, Bellie and Boman, are mahouts and raise two orphaned elephants, Raghu and Ammu. With time and climate change, the other elephants roam in search of food and water and often get lost. But the couple does not give up and despite all the difficulties, they work hard to give Raghu and Ammu better lives.
‘The Elephant Whisperers‘ is a wildlife short documentary of forty minutes by Sikhiya Entertainment, a production company that has financed some distinctive films like ‘That Girl in Yellow Boots‘, ‘The Lunchbox‘, ‘Masaan‘, and ‘Pagglait’.
Debutant director Kartiki Gonsalves spent five years for extensive research on the couple to document this film. As raising animals in the wildlife is common, what makes their case worthy of the documentary is that they were the first South Indian couple to successfully raise two orphaned elephants.
It is shocking but maybe that is because the forest officers take the animals from the villagers for perhaps safety reasons, or to move them to the zoo. But whatever reason there is, it is generally painful for the pet-keepers to give away their pets. And I totally understand that feeling because my family gave away dozens of cats when it became impossible to keep them.
The beauty of this documentary lies in capturing the growth of the elephants and detailing their upbringing. The detailing of their mannerism is exciting. It is so loving to see how these animals show affection to their keepers, sit and lie with them, and become moody about their choice of eating. The villagers love and respect the elephants as equivalent to a God due to their Lord Ganesha. Decorate and take them into ceremonies to seek blessings.
Also, the documentary explores the attractive natural beauty of the region. As expected, the cinematography is compelling. If wildlife forestry does not get quality camera work, especially if the film is shot in South India, I believe 90% of the hard work for that project is a waste. The camera zooming out at a mountain from where the villagers extract honey is a spectacular shot.
The purpose of the documentary (both long and short) is to gather information from the exhausting research on the project and present it with the best of productional technicalities. In forty minutes, Kartiki Gonsalves gives us the best possible insights about raising elephants in different seasons and difficult conditions.
This Netflix documentary has reached the Oscar for ‘Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Film‘. Unsure if this is Oscar worth but I am 100% sure that for animal lovers, forty minutes of life are going to be well invested.
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