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The Elephant Whisperers Documentary Review: A jumbo-sized heart-warming tale of human-animal bond- Cinema express

The Elephant Whisperers Documentary Review: A jumbo-sized heart-warming tale of human-animal bond

The documentary concentrates on companionship, somethign we all long for in our lives, by interspersing the everyday lifestyle, the beliefs of the sons of the soil, and human-animal relationship

Published: 09th December 2022

They say a bond once created between a man and an animal will last forever. This holds true in every sense in the latest Netflix Tamil documentary, The Elephant Whisperers, which tells the tale of an elderly couple — Raghu and Bellie — who become caretakers of two abandoned baby elephants.

Set in Theppakadu Elephant Camp of Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu, one of the oldest elephant camps in Asia, this documentary immediately sets up the poignant moments between caretaker Bomman and jumbo Raghu. Just like a parent who would wake up their child every morning, Bomman goes up to Raghu’s shed to let the elephant see the morning sunshine before they go about doing the routine of taking a bath in a nearby stream. We see how Bomman was entrusted with Raghu after the latter was orphaned when its mother was electrocuted. Infested with maggots and wounds, a hungry Raghu wanders into the village before finding a home in Bomman.

Streamer: Netflix

Director: Karthiki Gonslaves

Production: Sikhya Entertainment

Bellie, who lost her daughter and has a motherly instinct for Raghu, says, “When I first met the baby, he was tugging at my clothes like a child and I felt his love. I decided to give all my love to this motherless baby.” This apart, the documentary also gives us an outline of who she is. Bellie is a tribal woman, whose husband was mauled to death by a tiger. However, this doesn’t make her disrespect the terrain. Since being stabbed by an adult tusker, Bomman now just tends baby jumbos only. The documentary tucks minute details of its humans, through such dialogues, while it makes ample space to establish the topography of the region with the help of cinematography. We come to know it’s not just a place for elephants. There are butterflies, monkeys, tigers, peacocks, cranes resting on wild buffaloes, unperturbed hens, and wild pigs on elephants’ paths, which makes us think about the co-habitation of such varied species, especially at a time when human civilisation is marking their territories with all stringent measures possible.

The cinematography also elevates the storytelling for better, when it includes details like honey-tapping, the monkeys eating the leftover food of the elephants that sometimes throw childish tantrums of not being offered their favourite food. The documentary constantly draws parallels between these jumbos and the child-like behaviour it exerts on the caretakers.

The Elephant Whisperers also throws light on how elephants are orphaned and left on streets, during wildfires. We also see another helpless baby elephant, Ammu, who comes under the aegis of Bellie and Bomman. There are warm moments when Raghu gets a patch of sibling jealousy when a much younger Ammu gets attention from their parents. But the most heart-warming turn takes place when Bomman and Bellie get married in the presence of Raghu and Ammu, as a family.

Beyond the stigma of widow re-marriage and late matrimony, The Elephant Whisperers concentrates on the companionship that we all long for in our lives. The documentary intersperses the everyday lifestyle, the beliefs of the sons of the soil, and the human-animal relationship. Moments like Ammu lying on her mother’s lap, and Bellie no longer being scared of forests, make The Elephant Whisperers more than just a moving watch.

As the documentary ends on the note that Bellie and Bomman are the first couple to successfully raise two orphaned elephants in south India, the documentary, in a sublime manner talks about the purity of souls, and how love stands tall above all. Sometimes humanity is all that is needed to recover from the edge of survival.

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