The film’s underlying message is not unique in itself; we are increasingly aware of issues such as the climate crisis and the devastating impact it is having on wildlife conservation. What is unique, however, is the way it puts this message forward. Through a refreshing lens of positivity and hope, the film offers viewers glimpses of a life where humans and animals can co-exist and be dependent on each other in a way which helps both sides flourish.
The documentary traces the lives of Bomman and Bellie, and their adapted baby elephants: Raghu and Ammu. The couple are a part of the Theppakadu Elephant Camp within the Mudumalai National Park in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The 140 years old camp has been taking in elephants, mostly young elephants, who have been injured, fallen sick or left behind by their herds for decades.
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Gonsalves does a remarkable job of capturing the paternal relationship between the couple and their elephants through the simplicities of their daily routines: waking up Raghu, giving him a bath in the river, taking him on enriching walks, preparing his meals, and lastly putting him to sleep after his nightly glass (or jug) of milk.
Taking care of elephants and the wildlife is a generational occupation for these locals. Bommon took on the job the day his father died and the next generations are already being brought up around the elephants, lending a hand to the elders and learning vital skills of wildlife protection in a fun and interactive way.
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For the locals, however, the elephants are much more than just wildlife. These beautiful creatures are innately linked with divinity and spirituality. Each year the elephants are taken to the Ganesh temple to seek the Lord Ganesha’s blessings. The elephants are seen and respected as gods and it is perhaps these cultural roots ingrained within the community that enhances their ability to look after the majestic animals as if they were family, or perhaps even divinity.
Most certainly a worthy contender from India for an Oscar trophy next month.