Explore the heart-warming documentary ‘Elephant Whispers’ by Kartiki Gonsalves, an Academy Award-winning film that highlights the touching bond between rescued elephants and their human parents. The film’s message of coexistence with nature and caring for abandoned pets resonates, inspiring a more empathetic approach towards animals.

By Piu Sur

The documentary film, Elephant Whispers by Kartiki Gonsalves has won The Academy Award along with awards. The news is now history but I took my time to watch it now and relished every minute of what I saw. So much so, that I sat back and watched it again. The movie leaves you with the kind of peace and beauty of the Madumalai forest that you feel you are almost there with the elephants and their human parents. It is a very touching tale of bonding, love, and care. There is so much that the environment provides that we don’t stop to think about it. The silent communication between the forest and all its inhabitants are a reminder that we can coexist at all times in a peaceful way. We all need love and the space to share our love.

For those who have not watched the film yet, here is how it goes. To begin with, Elephant Whispers is the first Indian film to win an Academy Award in that category of the Oscars. Raghu is a baby elephant who is rescued by the forest officials as the mother was electrocuted. Raghu was given to a couple Bomman and Bellie, who were local tribal people of the forest. This couple was the special choice of the officials as they knew how to bring up baby elephants. They could connect with these babies and parent them to adulthood. Later, they also adopted another elephant, Ammu. The beautiful Madhumalai National Park became the centre of the story as the two elephants are lovingly parented.

The film makes a point that tribal people live in perfect harmony with nature. The two elephants are like two children craving for individual attention of their human parents. Words are not required to see the care and attention given to them. The couple are childless and so they devote all their energy and care to the two babies. The rescued animals grow up secure and happy. Raghu had come to the couple very weak and there were doubts about the ability for Raghu to live. But each day told a different story as patience, love, and care brought back Raghu who grew up playful and close to the human parents. Together, they enjoyed the blissful moments of the very scenic forest. Not only is the relationship shown to be very touching but the film also flags the way environmental conservation is done keeping in mind our Indian culture and tradition.

What I liked very much was how the couple trained the other young boys to be sensitive to the elephants. The children enjoyed giving baths to the baby elephants, scrubbing them, and walking by their side. One generation passes on the relationship with nature and the environment smoothly. The children touch, feel, and grow close to the babies (elephant calves) and understand what it means to be alone in the forest. They learn to naturally love and care, and be a part of the forest. Life goes on in one simple harmonious direction.

Having watched the film a couple of times, I felt that we, in the urban jungle could also do the same. Very often, we have to rescue animals and birds due to several accidents. In such cases, we often rush them to the hospital or give first aid and try to get them back to life. In some cases, we lose them too. There are several NGOs who desperately try to find a loving and caring home for these rescued animals.

It Is also shocking to find house pets abandoned in the streets because of their size or because the family moved to other cities. These house pets are completely lost and often wander about, unable to adjust to others in the street. Used to the home environment, they are lost in the city noise. Not everyone adjusts to these abandoned pets and if they do find a house, they are not guaranteed happiness. It just needs a sensitive human approach to go about it. Adjusting or getting a pet to be adopted into a new house can take time but is not impossible. Moreover, the children too get wrong messaging in such cases. Doing things in a more humane way is something we need to think about consciously.

As a media educator, I feel that such films could be shown and discussed in schools and communities often to talk about these issues with the children and their parents. Workshops, games, theatre, and art based on the enjoyable heart warming film can go a long way into the psyche of a child or adult, and it might change the way we look at abandoned pets or rescued animals. Education and continued awareness can bring us all together in helping animals and making better living conditions for them.

Not everything works well as most of the time it is difficult to find the right home for the rescued animals. Younger children are also not aware of such interactions and do not know how to adopt rescue pets. Maybe it’s time to learn to be more proactive in our approach in using an empathetic and sensitive lens when it comes to viewing animals. If the tribal couple could so efficiently bring up elephant calves, maybe we could try with the smaller rescued animals in our cities and give them a loving home.

Communication Consultant, Media Educator, Documentary film maker