“The Elephant Whisperers,” an emotional Indian film about the unbreakable bond between an abandoned elephant and their two caretakers, won an Oscar on Monday.
At the 95th Academy Awards, Kartiki Gonsalves’ documentary won first place in the Documentary Short category. The documentary, which is available on Netflix, focuses on the relationship between humans and animals. It also emphasises the larger message of elephant conservation and protection. The film features Bomman and Bellie, a couple in Mudumalai National Park in Tamil Nadu, who devote their lives to caring for orphaned baby elephants, Raghu and Ammu, thus, forging a family like no other.
Gonsalves dedicated the award to her “motherland India” and her family. “I stand here to speak of our connection with the natural world, for the respect of indigenous communities, and empathy towards other living beings we share a space with, and finally, for coexistence,” she said.
Thank you to the Academy for recognising our film, highlighting indigenous people. And for Netflix, for believing in the power of our film.” The film, produced by Guneet Monga, marks the debut of Gonsalves, who believes Indian stories have the potential to be recognised in the world.
“The film has connected people across the world. It comes to the question of how powerful filmmaking and storytelling is and how a small story with a global message has reached people across the globe in spite of being a local story from the heart of India,” Kartiki Gonsalves, who is the director, cinematographer and executive producer of “The Elephant Whisperers”, had told Moneycontrol in an interview in February. Gonsalves, who grew up in and continues to live in the hill station of Ooty in Tamil Nadu, has been a wildlife photography enthusiast since she was 15. So how did she spot the protagonists of her film?
It happened six years ago when Gonsalves was driving from Bengaluru to Ooty through the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve that she met Bomman and Raghu. “They were walking on the side of the road. Bomman, an elephant caregiver, was taking Raghu, an elephant calf, to the river for a bath. I pulled my car over and joined them,” she said.
“I noticed how close Raghu was to Bomman and the kind of relationship they shared.” In the Documentary Short category at Oscars 2023, “The Elephant Whisperers” competed with “Haulout”, “How Do You Measure a Year?”, “The Martha Mitchell Effect” and Malala Yousafzai’s “Stranger at the Gate”. Predicting a win for “The Elephant Whisperers”, the New York Times had said the film is “so visually ravishing and transporting” that it can trump Yousafzai’s star-power. Earlier, two entries set in India – “Smile Pinki” and “Period. End Of Sentence”, won Oscars in the Documentary Short category in 2008 and 2018 respectively. Monga was the executive produce for “Period”.