Director didn’t return money taken for shoot: Oscar couple Bomman and Bellie allege

Bomman and Bellie have alleged that the film’s director, Kartiki Gonsalves, had taken money from them to shoot scenes in the film and had not yet paid them back
Director didn’t return money taken for shoot: Oscar couple Bomman and Bellie allege

Months after The Elephant Whisperers won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Film at the 95th Academy Awards, Bomman and Bellie, the mahouts featured in the documentary, have alleged that the film’s director, Kartiki Gonsalves, had taken money from them to shoot scenes in the film and had not yet paid them back.

In a recent interview with a YouTube channel in Chennai, the couple said, “The director gave us no money for featuring. She said she didn’t have money to shoot the marriage scene. So, we withdrew money from our granddaughter’s account and spent it on the scene. The director has not returned the money yet. Her claims that she returned the money and bought a car and a land plot for us are all lies.” 

Bellie alleged that she lost peace of mind after the film’s shoot. “During the shooting, we did everything the director told us to do; from telling stories to my granddaughter to making tea, washing clothes and bathing Kumki elephants. The director had not even bought tea for us. All we received due to the movie was the Rs 1 lakh that Chief Minister MK Stalin offered us,” she said.

When contacted by TNIE, Kartiki Gonsalves refused to comment on the allegations. On Saturday night, Sikhya Entertainment, the company that bankrolled the documentary, released a statement on behalf of the company and the director. They refuted the allegations and said Bellie and Bomman were compensated properly as per their contract.

“Winning an Oscar does not translate into accolades in terms of money, and it is a recognition of filmmaking excellence. The goal of creating ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ has always been to highlight elephant conservation and the tremendous efforts of the forest department and its mahouts, Bomman and Bellie. Since its release, the documentary has raised awareness of the cause and had a real impact on the mahouts’ and Cavadis’ community,” the statement read.

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