• Thursday, May 23, 2024


‘The Elephant Whisperers’ Mahout couple sends legal notice to Kartiki Gonsalves

By: Mohnish Singh

The documentary film The Elephant Whisperers, which made headlines globally for winning the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Film at the 95th Academy Awards, thus becoming the first Indian film to win an Academy Award in that category at the Oscars, is in the news once again but for all the wrong reasons.

Bomman and Bellie, the mahout couple who starred in the documentary, have filed a lawsuit against director Kartiki Gonsalves, demanding a ‘goodwill gesture’ of 20 million rupees.

As per reports, Bomman and Bellie were introduced to celebrities, athletes, and political figures as “the real heroes,” resulting in widespread attention for them.

Gonsalves allegedly received financial benefits from both the chief government of Tamil Nadu and the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.

According to the legal notice, the couple was promised a decent home, an all-terrain, multi-purpose vehicle, and enough money for a one-time, lump sum payment (without specifying the amount) as recompense for their work, depending on the money made from the project.

Social activist-lawyer Pravin Raj, who claims to know the couple for over a decade, told PTI, “Both Bomman and Bellie are disappointed with (Kartiki) Gonsalves, who had promised them monetary help as well as help with the education of Bellie’s granddaughter while making the film. But she now refuses to give even a fraction of the enormous profits made by the film.”

As per the report, advocate Mohammed Mansoor, who is handling the case, received a reply notice from Sikhya Entertainment Pvt Ltd, the production house that bagged the film, on behalf of Kartiki, four days ago.

“In that, she has flatly refused any more help stating that she has already given money to the couple. I will be sending her a rejoinder in a couple of days after consulting with my clients,” he said.

Sikhya Entertainment Pvt Ltd issued a statement to PTI, “The goal in creating The Elephant Whisperers has always been to highlight elephant conservation, the tremendous efforts of the forest department and its mahouts Bomman and Bellie. Since its launch, the documentary has raised awareness of the cause and had a real impact on the Mahouts and Cavadis communities. The chief minister of Tamil Nadu M K Stalin has made donations towards assisting the 91 mahouts and Cavadis who look after the state’s elephants, constructing eco-friendly houses for the caretakers, and developing an elephant camp in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve.

The documentary has been celebrated by heads of state across India, and the Academy Award is a moment of national pride that has brought widespread recognition for the work of mahouts like Bomman and Bellie. All claims made are untrue. We have deep respect for all of the contributors of this story, and remain driven by the desire to create positive change.”


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