'The Elephant Whisperers' row: After claims of exploitation, mahout Bomman retracts his statements

Says he does not know anything about a legal notice or case


A day after Bomman and Bellie, the mahout couple made famous by the Oscar-winning documentary The Elephant Whisperers, allegedly issued a legal notice to filmmaker Kartiki Gonsalves seeking a goodwill gesture' of Rs 2 crore, Bomman claimed that he does not know who sent the legal notice.

The legal notice had stated that the couple was 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.

The notice said while the couple was introduced as "the real heroes" to the elite, celebrities, sports persons and political leaders, gaining wide publicity for them, the filmmaker got financial benefits from Tamil Nadu chief minister and the prime minister of India.

However, backtracking his statements, Bomman, in a recent video is heard saying that he never said he would take back the case if their demands are met. He said he does not even know about the latest developments or even the advocate who sent the legal notice.

He further claimed that he does not know anything about the case and added that he does not want anything to do with the same.

However, news agency PTI, on Sunday reported that Bomman had said he was advised not to talk about the case anymore and asked the news agency to get in touch with his lawyers for further information.

Chennai-based social activist Pravin Raj, a lawyer by profession, who claimed to have known the couple for nearly a decade, had said he had put Bomman and Bellie in touch with a law firm in Chennai when the couple approached him.

Raj alleged that 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. He had alleged that Gonsalves was refusing to pick up the phone when Bomman calls.

After reports of the legal notice went viral, Gonsalves had issued a statement saying the goal of 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. Our honourable chief minister of Tamil Nadu, MK 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 a deep respect for all of the contributors of this story, and remain driven by the desire to create positive change," the statement said.

With PTI inputs