- Documentary Name: The Elephant Whisperers
- Director: Kartiki Gonsalves
- Run Time: 40 minutes
- Year of Release: 2022
- Our Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4 stars)
If a blind man feels Elephant’s trunk, it might seem like a snake, or if he touches the tail, it might feel like a broom. However, not all of us are blind, we can definitely see a wonderful animal that lies between a trunk and a tail.
The Elephant Whisperers is a documentary that focuses on the lives of two individuals and their beautiful association with Elephants.
The story is based in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, a 320 sq km national park located in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and forms part of Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve. The name of the forest indicates it to be primarily a habitat for tigers, but it is also a prominent place for Asian elephants. The tall grasses (elephant grass), and bamboo growing along the river Moyar, provide a conducive habitat for elephants.
Located in the forest is Theppakadu Elephant camp, one of the oldest elephant camps in Asia providing care for many orphaned & injured elephants.
The documentary starts with an elderly couple Bomman and Belli taking care of an orphaned baby elephant named Raghu. The male elephant was brought to their care by the forest department when he was found severely injured and efforts to make him rejoin the herd failed. A few minutes into the movie, another baby elephant, Ammu joins the family.
The Elephant Whisperers that was filmed in 2019 showcases various intimate moments between Elephants with their caretakers, Bomman and Belli. The elephants might be huge in terms of their size and weight, but as Belli explains they are no less than human children.
Both the young elephants are treated with extreme affection and respect by the couple. Feeding food and milk, giving a scrub in the river, playing football, and even handling tantrums, Bomman and Belli perform these rituals to grow these Elephants.
The love is equally reciprocated by the Elephants through their gestures. Belli recounts in the documentary that when she was grief-stricken due to her daughter and ex-husband’s death, it was the touch of the animal that consoled her.
The 40-minute documentary is interspersed with glimpses of other animals and the lifestyle of a tribal community, including a ceremony where all elephants line up and hoist their trunks to pay respect to the Gods.
The short documentary available on Netflix is able to show us a lot of aspects that go into the lives of Elephants and their human caregivers. The movie ends by showing small kids playfully scrubbing elephants in the river and Belli mentioning that it is now up to the future generation to ensure that love between humans and animals is maintained.
The Elephant Whisperers created history at the Academy Awards held in March 2023, when it became the first Indian production to win the Oscar for best short documentary.