Oscars 2023: 'The Elephant Whisperers' director Kartiki dedicates win to 'India'

'The Elephant Whisperers' is Kartiki's debut directorial work. Photos: IANS

Los Angeles: Oscar winner Kartiki Gonsalves who won the award in the Short documentary category, credited her 'motherland India' for the win.

'The Elephant Whisperers' was competing in the category alongside 'Haulout', 'How Do You Measure a Year?', 'The Martha Mitchell Effect' and 'Stranger at the Gate'.

After being presented the honour, Kartiki, who was accompanied with producer Guneet Monga, said: "I stand here to speak today about the sacred bond between us and the natural world for the respect of indigenous communities and empathy towards other living beings we share our space with and finally for coexistence. Thank you to the academy for recognising our film, highlighting indigenous people and animals."

She concluded by saying: "To my motherland India." In an earlier interview, with Onmanorama, Kartiki, had said she wanted people to relate to Raghu, to show how much elephants are capable of love and care, how they have a sense of humour. “I also wanted to show people that they have share a lot of similarities with elephants. My documentary also lets the viewers focus extremely closely on the human carers and the elephants without an outside interference, which is why we did not even include any narration from an outside source.”

'The Elephant Whisperers' marks Gonsalves' directorial debut. The documentary is about the bond that develops between a couple and an orphaned baby elephant, Raghu, who was entrusted to their care.

Meanwhile, Guneet Monga, who was the force behind 'The Elephant Whisperers' as executive producer, lifted the Oscar for the second time.

Monga's first Oscar was for the documentary short film, Iranian American filmmaker Rayka Zehtabch's 'Period: End of Sentence', which follows a group of local women at Kathikera village in Hapur, Uttar Pradesh, as they learn how to operate a machine that makes low-cost, biodegradable sanitary pads, which they sell to other women at affordable prices.

It is not only empowering for the women who produce the sanitary pads, but also helps them, and the women they help, shed taboos regarding menstruation. The short film was inspired by the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social activist from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu.

Monga, incidentally, has previously worked with Anurag Kashyap on projects such as 'Gangs of Wasseypur - Part 1', 'Gangs of Wasseypur - Part 2', 'Peddlers', 'The Lunchbox', 'Masaan', 'Zubaan' and 'Pagglait'.

'The Elephant Whisperers' landed on Monga's lap when she was contacted by Kartiiki Gonsalves, who had stumbled upon Bomman and his baby elephant Raghu near the Mudumalai National Park while on her way home in Ooty.

The short film documents the tender relationship between Bomman and his helpmate, Ballie, whom he marries subsequently (Monga attended their wedding deep in the forest to get a better sense of the story), and Raghu, who was orphaned and abandoned by the herd after his mother got electrocuted at the national park.

Gonsalves, the daughter of IIT-Mandi founder-director Timothy and US-born historian Priscilla Gonsalves, shot the story of the indigenous couple on her phone, a GoPro, and then a DSLR camera.

Much of the filming was done at the Thepepakadu Elephant Camp, one of the oldest institutions of its kind in the region. Gonsalves had 400 hours of footage, which she finally got down to 40 minutes.

But it all happened after Gonsalves spent a month and half at Monga's home in Mumbai. Monga had invited the newbie director, who was driven entirely by passion, to be her house guest so that they could understand each other.

(with IANS inputs)

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