Chennai: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin on Wednesday felicitated Bomman and Belli — who had featured in the Oscar-winning documentary ”The Elephant Whisperers”, here.
The couple, caretakers of elephants at Mudumalai in the Nilgiris district, met the Chief Minister, days after the documentary bagged the Academy Award.
Stalin presented each of them cheques of Rs 1 lakh, besides a shield and shawl to honour them, an official release said.
”The Elephant Whisperers”, in its 39-minute runtime, depicts an unbreakable bond between two abandoned elephant calves Raghu and Amu and their caretakers, Bomman and Belli. It is produced by Guneet Monga and Achin Jain of Sikhya Entertainment.
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The release said the documentary showcased the Tamil Nadu forest department’s functioning and the efforts towards elephant caretaking.
The CM has announced Rs 1 lakh each to the 91 persons working in the two elephant camps in Tamil Nadu — Mudumalai and Anaimalai, it added.
He has also announced Rs 9.10 crore towards constructing houses for them. The elephant camp located in the Anaimalai tiger reserve in Coimbatore district will be upgraded at a cost of Rs 5 crore.
An elephant camp with all required facilities will be established at Savadivayal in Coimbatore district, the release added. Later, speaking to reporters, Bomman said rearing of elephants was not easy and that they showed the same care to the calves like that being showed to children.
Kartiki Gonsalves, who directed the documentary, expressed joy over Stalin meeting the couple.
”Overjoyed and so proud to see Bomman & Bellie honoured by our honourable Chief Minister @mkstalin after ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ won the first academy award for India for an independent film at 95th Academy Awards,” she said in a tweet.
Later in a statement, Gonsalves said it was ”incredible” to have an Indian indigenous documentary on the sacred bond between man and nature on Asian Elephants to be recognised around the world.
”I still remember when I showed them the final film in a private viewing in October of 2022. There is no greater feeling in the world than to present to Bomman and Bellie everything I have worked on over the last five years to bring their story to the world and to watch them smile and laugh and cry while watching it.
”That I must admit is the most beautiful feeling in the world. I didn’t just make a documentary on them, they are an integral part of my life along with Sanjana, Raghu and Ammu. It was also a very special moment when I took my parents to their house. We are all family,” the director said in the statement.
Monga said Bomman and Belli being felicitated by the Tamil Nadu government is another achievement for the film.
”… The impact the film has had and the love for the amazing duo of Bomman and Bellie is for me personally as a filmmaker the biggest achievement of all. The impact this news has had and that they’re being recognised, felicitated for their incredible story, their hard work makes me really emotional and happy…” added the producer.