In the legal notice, it is stated that the couple were promised a proper house, an all-terrain multi-purpose vehicle and sufficient financial support as a one-time lump sum payment as compensation for their time, based on the income generated from the project.
Social activist-lawyer Pravin Raj, who knows the couple for over a decade, said, “Both Bomman and Bellie are disappointed with Kartiki 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.” He added that the couple has been following Kartiki 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,” he added.
For which Sikhya Entertainment Pvt Ltd issued a statement, “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 communities. 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.”
It also added, “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.”
The movie talks about the bond between Raghu, an orphaned baby elephant, and his caretakers – a mahout couple named Bomman and Bellie – who devote their lives to protect him from poachers and raise him.