At the 95th Academy Awards held this year, India shone bright with two wins.

While the song Naatu Naatu from SS Rajamouli’s RRR won for the Best Original Song, Indian-American Tamil documentary The Elephant Whisperers won Best Documentary Short Subject.

The short film’s win also marks Kartiki Gonsalves’ directorial debut.

A photojournalist by profession, Gonsalves’s love for nature, tribal communities and animal life is known.

In an interview with NDTV, she was quoted saying that she was introduced to nature before she could walk.

“While many families might more often go out shopping, to the movies, to visit friends and relatives, [but] we headed out to explore the forests, streams, beaches, mountains, zoos, natural history museums and aquariums.”

She added that the first time she camped out in a state park was when she was only 18 months.

In her directorial debut, Gonsalves highlights the almost sacred bond between animals and man through the story of Raghu, an orphaned baby elephant.

Couple Bomman and Belli are entrusted with Raghu’s care, and develop a strong bond with the animal.

The film was shot in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, where Gonsalves spent a lot of her time during her growing up years in Ooty. For the movie, she spent around five years following this ‘blended’ family.

While the film does strike the right chords, it also sheds light on the subject of awareness.

With the Asian elephant losing its habitat with increasing encroachment, there is a necessity to prioritise this issue above all.

The 40-minute Netflix film produced by Guneet Monga’s Sikhya Entertainment was competing in the category alongside Haulout, How Do You Measure a Year?, The Martha Mitchell Effect and Stranger at the Gate.

In her acceptance speech, Gonsalves said, “I stand here to speak today about the sacred bond between us and the natural world for the respect of indigenous communities and empathy towards other living beings we share our space with and finally for coexistence…”

“...Thank you to the academy for recognising our film, highlighting indigenous people and animals.” She concluded by saying: “To my motherland, India.”