Making the Oscar-nominated Indian film “The Elephant Whisperers” was a long five-year journey for director Karthik Gonsalves.
The film follows a couple, Bowman and Bailey, who dedicate their lives to caring for an orphaned baby elephant named Raghav.
The film marks the directorial debut of Gonsalves, a renowned wildlife and social documentary photographer, photojournalist and cinematographer. Gonsalves hails from the Nilgiris hill region of South India. On a trip back to his family home, Gonsalves met Raghu when he was three months old and lied about what he described as an “unbreakable bond” with the elephant.
“I saw that Boman had a bond with Raghav like I had never seen before. Raghav was Boman’s son and so much more. 2017-2018 was a very special part of my life. The beginning of a journey that will last a lifetime. The three of us would happily splash in the river, I would spend hours sweeping Raghu and licking his tongue (which he absolutely loved) while he enjoyed pulling my hair and splashing water on me. We would stick our tongues out at each other. They are such intelligent creatures,” Gonsalves said Variety. The filmmaker then began what would become a five-year documentation of his life.
“Raghu’s orphanhood is a bittersweet start to the story. The Asian elephant is losing its habitat at a fast pace in a rapidly developing country like India due to encroachment and climate change. But I wanted the story to be positive,” Gonsalves said. Why focus on all the depressing parts when there’s so much beauty and such an extraordinary family dynamic. “I wanted people to be able to understand these beautiful creatures on a deeper level and have a similar experience. Recognize traits and intelligence. I hoped that people would want to protect them and their landscape. I also wanted to show the importance of local people and their knowledge and most importantly give them a voice.
In January 2020, after gathering the necessary permits and completing part of the filming on the project, Gonsalves put together a trailer and submitted it to Netflix. It was acquired by Streamer and Sukhya Entertainment, led by Ganeet Monga, an Oscar-winning short-lived producer. The End of Punishment.” (2018), boarded to see the project.
“Meeting Karthiki and learning more about his pure approach to storytelling was a highlight for me to come on board. His visual sense of storytelling and documentary concept was so incredible that I knew I have to join the board as a producer,” Monga said. Variety. “The story felt like a sacred bond with such incredible imagery. Who else can say no to baby elephants!”
Gonsalves and Monga teamed up with the local Katunaikan tribe, of which Bowman and Bailey are a part, on their journey to make the film.
Monga, who is a member of AMPAS, also served as producer on the Oscar-nominated short “Kavi” and has been a campaign advisor on India’s entries in the International Feature category of the Academy Awards. Monga and Gonsalves are working on the Oscar campaign for “The Elephant Whisperers” in Los Angeles.
“Since the film is live on the Netflix platform, we now aim to ensure that everyone around the world watches our film and experiences the beauty, the sacred bond between an orphaned elephant and his caretaker Bomman-Bellie. relevance,” Monga said. “This is a never-before-seen-before-Indian look at the global stage. I really hope that my fellow Academy voters will see the merit, relevance and spirit of the film.
Gonsalves added: “’The Elephant Whisperers’ is a hopeful story of respect and cooperation for nature in an age of conflict and denial of the threats to our beautiful planet. We hope this film will help create more awareness, compassion and connection with elephants and the other creatures we share our spaces with.
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