Meet Kartiki Gonsalves, director of Oscar-winning film The Elephant Whisperers, who dedicated win to India


The Elephant Whisperers, a short documentary feature, managed to do what big names like Lagaan and Mother India could not – win at the Oscars for India. The film won the Best Documentary Short Subject award at the 95th Academy Awards. In one of the most heartfelt moments in the ceremony, the film’s director Kartiki Gonsalves dedicated the award to India.

Who is Kartiki Gonsalves, director of The Elephant Whisperers?

Based out of Mumbai, Kartiki Gonsalves is a photojournalist and filmmaker, whose work focuses on wildlife, environment, and nature. She also explores themes connected to cultures, communities and their connections through her work. She has travelled far and wide to document the tribal communities of India and their connection with nature. The Elephant Whisperers is deeply rooted in the same theme. During her acceptance speech at the Oscars, she dedicated the award to ‘my motherland India’.

What is the Elephant Whisperers about?

The Elephant Whisperers, a documentary short film, has become the first-ever film from India to win an Oscar. The Kartiki Gonsalves-directorial, deals with the bond that develops between a couple and an orphaned baby elephant. Set in the Mudumalai National Park in Tamil Nadu, The Elephant Whisperers tells the story of an indigenous couple named Bomman and Belli, who are entrusted with an orphaned baby elephant named Raghu. The story tracks how a strong bond develops between the couple and the elephant as they attempt to nurse the injured infant to health. It explores themes of how the tribal folks of India live with harmony with nature.

How special is The Elephant Whisperers’ Oscars win?

The film ended decades of Oscars drought for Indian films. Over five decades, several Indian films, ranging from Mother India and Lagaan to documentaries and animated features, had been nominated at the prestigious awards but fallen short at the final hurdle. The Indian short film had been predicted to win at the Oscars by many experts and trackers, given the Academy’s love for animal-based films and the accolades the film itself has received in the past.

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