August 07, 2023: In a legal notice issued by Bomman and Bellie, the mahout couple made famous by the Oscar-winning documentary ‘The Elephant Whisperers’, is seeking a ‘goodwill gesture’ of Rs 2 crore from filmmaker Kartiki Gonsalves.
In the legal notice, a copy of which is PTI has obtained, it is stated that the couple were promised a proper house and an all-terrain multi-purpose vehicle and sufficient financial support as a one-time lump sum payment (without mentioning the amount) as compensation for their time, based on the income generated from the project.
The legal notice also said that on the one hand, the couple were introduced as “the real heroes" to the elite, celebrities, sports persons and political leaders, gaining wide publicity for them. But on the other hand, the filmmaker got all the financial benefits from Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and the Prime Minister of India, the notice stated.
When PTI reached out to Bomman, he said he was advised not to talk about the case anymore and asked us to get in touch with his lawyers for further information.
Chennai-based social activist Pravin Raj, a lawyer by profession, who said he has known the couple for almost a decade, said he put them in touch with a law firm in Chennai when the couple approached him.
“Both Bomman and Bellie are disappointed with Gonsalves, who had promised them monetary help as well as help with the education of Bellie’s granddaughter, while making the film. But she now refuses to give even a fraction of the enormous profits made by the film,” said Raj.
He said the couple have been following the documentary maker around, doing what she was asking them to do, in the hope that when the film did well, they would all prosper together.
“Instead, Gonsalves is not even picking up the phone when Bomman calls,” added Raj.
Advocate Mohammed Mansoor who is handling the case said four days ago he received a reply notice from Sikhya Entertainment Pvt Ltd, on behalf of Gonsalves.
“In that, she has flatly refused any more help stating that she has already given money to the couple. I will be sending her a rejoinder in a couple of days after consulting with my clients,” said Mansoor.
Meanwhile, in a statement issued by Sikhya Entertainment Pvt Ltd to the PTI, it is stated: “The goal in creating ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ has always been to highlight elephant conservation, the tremendous efforts of the forest department and its mahouts Bomman and Bellie. Since its launch, the documentary has raised awareness of the cause and had a real impact on the mahouts and cavadis community.
“Chief minister of Tamil Nadu M K Stalin has made donations towards assisting the 91 mahouts and cavadis who look after the state’s elephants, constructing eco-friendly houses for the caretakers and developing an elephant camp in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve.
“The documentary has been celebrated by heads of state across India, and the Academy Award is a moment of national pride that has brought widespread recognition for the work of mahouts like Bomman and Bellie.
“All claims made are untrue. We have deep respect for all of the contributors of this story, and remain driven by the desire to create positive change.”