The Elephant Whisperers is a story of a couple, Bomman and Bellie, who have been given an orphaned elephant to look after. (Photos: Twitter)
The Elephant Whisperers’ heroes Bomman and Bellie reveal what were they doing when the film won an Oscar. Read on.
The Elephant Whisperers created history at the Oscars 2023 as it won the Best Documentary Short Subject award. The film is based on a couple, Bomman and Bellie, who have been given an orphaned elephant to look after. However, Bomman and Bellie remember being a little unsure about the purpose of The Elephant Whisperers. They were doing just what they did every day – only this time, someone was filming.
What they originally thought would stretch a couple of weeks, went on for months. In the end, when documentary filmmaker Kartiki Gonsalves screened the picture, both were slightly taken aback – by the force of their own purpose in life and the crew’s uncanny ability to transfer that aspect to the celluloid.
Months after filming and having gone back to their lives, Bomman and Bellie are supremely surprised by the recognition at the Oscars and very proud too.
52-year-old Bomman, a mahaut, told CNN News18: “We have still not come to terms with the Oscar win. The fact that the documentary has bagged the Oscar is a very proud moment for us and the forest department. We didn’t expect this. We never imagined that the documentary would become so famous. It’s a proud moment for the whole country. We were also felicitated by the Chief Minister. We are on cloud nine.”
Bellie, now at 50, is still in surprise. She said: “We were the first to watch the documentary. We stay in Mudumalai. We were taken to another place to watch the documentary. We also suggested a few corrections and only after the changes, the documentary was screened. Initially, we thought it would be a ten-day shoot. The shoot went on for over nine months. They used to shoot for a few days at a stretch and then come back later. The team used to spend a lot of time with us. Whenever they came, we made sure to stay at home. We didn’t know they are going to make such a documentary. It was a surprise for us too.”
The documentary captured the couple as they really are. The couple takes care of elephants and raises them. “It didn’t feel like a real-time shooting. Whatever we did on a daily basis was captured. Bathing elephants, feeding them, giving them milk..all these were shot. We didn’t have to act for the documentary. The story that you see on screen is a real-life story of our life,” Bommann said.
Bomman is taking care of 28 elephants including the elephant calves. “Most of them are calves who have lost their parents. Some of them are the ones who are beaten by villagers. We use a Kumki elephant to catch the bigger elephants and train them,” he added.
Bomman was busy last week when India was watching the Oscars. “We received many calls. I was also busy last week. Recently. three elephants died due to electrocution in the state., So, we had to hunt for their calves and bring them. I was busy with that. I wasn’t able to speak to many of them. This win is a victory for the entire team of Mudumalai Forest Reserve.”
Bomman, who works in Theppakadu Elephant camp, one of the oldest camps in Asia, said he will devote his life to raising orphaned elephant calves.
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