Bomman and Bellie, the mahout couple that starred in the Oscar-winning documentary The Elephant Whisperers, issued a legal notice seeking a ‘goodwill gesture’ of ₹2 crore from filmmaker Kartiki Gonsalves. News agency PTI citing the statement reported that Bomman and Bellie were introduced as ‘the real heroes’ to the celebrities, sports persons and political leaders, gaining wide publicity for them. (Also Read | The Elephant Whisperers’ Kartiki Gonsalves shares pic as ‘complete family’ of Oscar-winning docu reunites after 6 years)
What does the legal notice state
As per the statement, the filmmaker got financial benefits from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Tamil Nadu chief minister. The legal notice stated that the duo was promised a proper house, an all-terrain multi-purpose vehicle and sufficient financial support as a one-time lump sum payment (without mentioning the amount) as compensation for their time, based on the income generated from the project.
Here’s what Bomman and Bellie’s acquaintance said
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.”
He added that the couple has been following Kartiki around, doing what she was asking them to do, in the hope that when the film did well, they would all prosper together. “Instead, Gonsalves is not even picking up the phone, when Bomman calls,” he added.
What Bomman and Bellie’s lawyer said
As per the report, advocate Mohammed Mansoor, who is handling the case, received a reply notice from Sikhya Entertainment Pvt Ltd, 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.
Statement from Kartiki’s team
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. 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.”
It also added, “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.”
About The Elephant Whisperers
The Elephant Whisperers, helmed by debutant Kartiki Gonsalves, has been backed by Guneet Monga’s banner Sikhya Entertainment. The 41-minute short documentary movie explores the tentative yet precious bond between Raghu, an orphaned baby elephant, and his caretakers – a mahout couple named Bomman and Bellie – who devote their lives to protect him from poachers and raise him.