Tourists are travelling to an elephant camp in Nilgiris district in India to see Raghu, the star of “The Elephant Whisperers”, which won the award for Best Documentary Short Film on Sunday at the Oscars.
“This is India’s first-ever film to win, and it’s two women from a country of 1.4 billion,” said The Elephant Whisperers producer Guneet Monga after winning. “And this is India’s first production to win. So very grateful for that.”
The Elephant Whisperers follows a couple, Bomman and Bellie, as they care for Raghu, a rescued orphaned elephant. When forest officials rescued Raghu, they took him to Theppakadu Elephant Camp, owned by the Tamil Nadu Forest department, and assigned Bomman as his mahout (handler).
Even though Raghu is a source of income for Bommam and Bellie, the love between man and elephant is very noticeable. When Raghu is re-assigned to another mahout, the couple is grieving.
The documentary was shot at Theppakadu Elephant Camp, one of the oldest elephant camps in south India. “We came to visit the elephants, and then we found out that two of them, Bommi and Raghu, won the Oscar last night, so it’s very fortunate that we were able to see them here. Yeah, so a good experience,” tourist Grace said.
“We have seen Raghu, the Oscar-winning elephant and Bommi, the other elephant, which is also an amazing one,” Suhas, who visited from Bangalore, said, adding that the film’s Oscar victory motivated him to visit the camp.
The movie, aired on the streaming service Netflix, has also received criticism as Raghu is often seen with a chain around his leg. “How can this docu win an Oscar? You see the animals in chains the whole time,” Maaike Suijker wrote in a review on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).
“Raghu is like a dependent domesticated pet,” Miriam wrote. “In this movie, they make elephants be their servants and do not rehabilitate them for the wild.” She added that the elephant camp does get “a passing mark for saving injured elephants.”
“Yes, there is an orphaned aspect to the storyline. But is there a true rehabilitation, attempt and reintroduction back into the wild?” Ray Cliff said.
“As an Elephant lover, it was uncomfortable for me to watch the calves being chained and isolated from other elephants. Yes, the rescuing of orphaned/lost calves may be necessary; however, raising them in captivity is not,” Divya said.