Meet Bomman-Bellie, the Duo who inspired Oscar-winning ‘The Elephant Whisperers’

Bomman is an elephant rescuer, and the Oscar winner ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ revolves around how Bomman and his wife Bellie Amma take care of an orphaned elephant calf, Raghu.

All about Bomman and Bellie 

The documentary film took five years to make, Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga began the project in 2017 and finished it in 2022. And it was finally released in December 2022.


Bomman, the star of the film, has been receiving frequent calls all day on Monday, March 13, congratulating him after a documentary featuring him and his wife Bellie Amma won the Oscar for Best Documentary film.

Coming from a family of mahouts (elephant keepers), Bomman works at Theppakadu Elephant Camp, the oldest elephant camp in Asia. Bellie met Bomman while on the same journey to take care of elephants and that’s when they got married.

Later, the couple spent years together raising Raghu, and Bommi, a five-month-old calf orphaned in the Sathyamangalam forests in western Tamil Nadu. Raghu was brought to the camp in May 2017, while Bommi alias Ammu came in June 2019, reported Deccan Herald.


Taking care of the calves

Bellie recalled how Raghu, the baby elephant in the documentary, first came into her family’s care. “When I saw his state and his cut-off tail, I initially thought it wouldn’t be possible to raise him. But my family said, let’s try as much as we can to heal him. We managed to do so, and by the time he grew up, Bommi came along to us.”

“It isn’t an easy job to raise elephant calves. We have to commit a major part of our daily lives to them. We have to feed the elephant and give milk on time. We need to be very sensitive to their needs as they cannot open their mouth and ask us what they want,” Bomman told DH.

The bonding that they shared with the calves cannot be explained in words, says Bellie adding, “Orphaned calves need a lot of attention, care, and love from the caretakers who should be with them all the time. We could never leave anywhere when we were raising them. Only when they go to sleep, we can catch some rest.”


Surprisingly, Bellie had to watch the calves even when her daughter was fighting for her life at a hospital after setting herself ablaze as they couldn’t leave them alone. By the time they reached, her daughter had passed away.

Remembering how she and her family were approached for the film, Bellie added, “Now the film has gone all the way to the Oscars, all of us at Mudumalai are really happy.” Meanwhile, Bomman says he is yet to watch the film that is being celebrated across the world. “I’ll watch it after I return to Mudumalai,” he tells TNM over the phone.

The separation

Bomman is from the Kattunayakan tribe and is a resident of Theppakadu in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. But while the documentary is winning hearts, Bomman says Raghu and Bommi are no longer under his care. “After the film came out, there were some problems,” Bomman reveals, as he briefly mentions some arguments in the community that takes care of orphaned elephants at the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. “We had to give up the two elephant calves we were taking care of, and now some other Mahouts are taking care of them,” he says.


“If the calves see me, they will want me to come and watch them out. They won’t eat and would create a ruckus. And moreover, I cannot see them yearning for our love. I see them from a distance every day and get back to my work,” Bellie added.

Bomman said their happiness knew no bonds at the hearing of the Oscar news. “Nothing can substitute the joy of raising orphaned calves. We become the mother and that is such a lovely thing. We are happy that the film documented our joys and challenges. Raising orphaned calves is a mix of both,” he said.