Highlighting the plight of Kerala’s captive elephants

Sangita Iyer  

Sangita Iyer describes her connection with elephants as ‘soulful.’ “On a trip to India in December 2013, I was devastated to see how captive elephants were taken care of. Raw, bleeding wounds on their feet and wounds on their hips as well as being whipped by their mahouts — I saw a little of this and was devastated by it,” said the independent nature and wildlife documentary filmmaker and producer.

“I was haunted by what I saw and knew that I had to do something about it,” she explained, describing what prompted her to make her award winning documentary ‘Gods in Shackles’ for which she is the director and executive producer.

The 92-minute documentary depicts the plight of temple and captive elephants in Kerala and was shot by Sangita and her team in 2014 in Kerala and predominantly features the Thrissur Pooram festival.

“We shot over 200 hours of footage, which included videos shot undercover of elephants being ill-treated at various places in Kerala. When we were trying to shoot footage during the Pooram festival, many mahouts used to block our camera and refused to let us shoot. This is what egged me on to dig deeper into how the animals were treated,” Ms. Iyer recalled.

The elephants, she said, were often beaten, starved and not given adequate meals and not treated for any wounds.

The documentary has won honours at the Los Angeles Cine Fest and Miami Independent Film Festival, besides being a finalist at the International Elephant Film Festival and winning the Golden Award at the World Documentary Awards.

“The biggest victory for us has been the fact that the film was screened on May 21 to the Legislative Assembly of Kerala. We were extremely glad that people who are responsible for framing policies got to see what we had shot,” she said.

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Printable version | May 5, 2021 3:45:03 PM |

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