The mahout couple from the Oscar-winning documentary movie ‘The Elephant Whisperers’, Bomman and Bellie sent a legal notice to filmmaker Kartiki Gonsalves seeking a ‘goodwill gesture’ of Rs. 2 crore from her, reports emerged on Monday.
According to reports, the mahout couple was promised a proper house, an all-terrain multi-purpose vehicle and sufficient financial support as a one-time lump sum payment as compensation for their time, based on the income generated from the project by the filmmaker.
Regarding the legal notice, social activist-lawyer and acquaintance to the couple Pravin Raj was quoted by PTI saying, “Both Bomman and Bellie are disappointment with 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.”
Pravin further said that the couple was following the filmmaker around, doing what she asked them to do in the hope that when the film will do well, they would all prosper together, however, he alleged, “Instead, Gonsalves is not even picking up the phone, when Bomman calls.”
Meanwhile, after receiving the legal notice, Sikhya Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, on behalf of the filmmaker, sent a reply notice refusing any more help claiming that she already gave money to the couple.
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.”
“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,” the statement added.
It may be mentioned that ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ bagged the Oscar Awards in 'Best Documentary Short Film' category on March 13 in the 95th Academy Awards ceremony.