Poster of The Elephant Whispers

Raghu, the elephant’s interactions with his human caretakers, Bomman and Bellie is one of the sweetest things that I have seen in a long time. What makes it even more special is the human-like mannerisms that the elephant is shown portraying — Or was it all in my head? I can’t be sure. The Elephant Whisperers is a 40-minutes long short film directed by Kartiki Gonsalves that chronicles the Journey of two baby elephants from the point of rescue to a state from where they can be released in the reserve forest. The two elephants land up in the care of the same couple who quickly form a unique bond with the two that goes far beyond the call of their duties.

A film of this nature is incredibly difficult to make as an elephant will neither act nor react for you when you plan a shot. Thus, the process is practically waiting and shooting everything that you feel is relevant and then waiting for the magic to happen which you never know when it will. When I watched The Elephant Whisperers, I was in awe of Kartiki Gonsalves and her team’s effort and perseverance. They must have captured hours and hours of footage and were then able to present the most compelling, dramatic, lovely, sweet, and relevant few moments from it that builds up a coherent, affecting, and impactful narrative.

Even at 40 minutes, the film has more of a story to tell than many films are able to in hours. There is a clear beginning, middle, and end. You are constantly involved with the characters — especially the elephants. You understand their backstories. The bond between the elephants and the humans is built up using interactions and daily routines. The film also goes into great detail about the religious practices and rituals of the characters in the film and shows how the elephants are deeply rooted in everything that they do from the moment they wake up in the morning.

Raghu as a character is enchanting. He is playful, he is naughty, he is understanding and most importantly, he is extremely intelligent. The way he interacts with Bomman is different from how he interreacts with Bellie and it goes a long way to draw parallels with a human child whose interactions with his two parents are very different depending on the vibes that he gets from them. I just loved the feeding scenes that depict how moody Raghu can be and how close he is to a human child in terms of eating patterns.

There are numerous scenes where we can see the elephants walk side by side with the humans holding their trunks as if they were children who might get lost otherwise. I found this exceptionally warm and humane. The scenes where the elephants are bathed by the humans are no less heartwarming. There is such a quality to these visuals that they need no spoken words. The meanings and emotions are effortlessly conveyed through these visual presentations. One has to credit Kartiki Gonsalves for her exceptional choice of shots and her vision for the story.

The cinematography, which I believe was either done using Sony Alpha cameras or was in some way aided by Sony, is exceptionally well done. You get every envision-able of shot here and they are not here for the sake of making the film feel cinematic. The different types of shots used aid the storytelling and are essential for telling the story in a certain way. The cinematography of the film not only makes it feel regal and enormous in terms of the scope but also aids in the conveying of emotions of most of the scenes. I loved how the cinematographers captured Raghu and it is the different viewing angles that in many ways accentuate his mannerisms filling our minds with a vision of the expression that we want to see on his otherwise expressionless face. Apart from the storytelling, it was also the visuals that converted Raghu into a human-like entity in the film.

For a film that is only 40 minutes long, The Elephant Whisperers tells an enormous story that is dripping with gorgeous visuals, uncanny twists and turns, and above all, heartwarming human emotions and drama that shows us the very best that we humans are capable of doing. It is the kind of cinema that transcends boundaries that cinema has put up for itself and aspires for more. The film has been nominated in the best documentary short category at the 95th Oscars and if it doesn’t win, I will most definitely lose my faith in the Oscars permanently.

Rating: – 5/5 (5 out of 5 Stars)

The views expressed in this article are that of the reviewer and do not reflect EastMojo’s position.

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