Thiruvananthapuram: Putting the focus back on the plight of elephants in Kerala, a documentary on the cruelties against temple tuskers was screened at the state assembly on Wednesday. The question is whether the Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government would take any practical steps to end the miseries of these tuskers, without hurting the religious sentiments?
'Gods in Shackles', produced and directed by Sangita Iyer, a multiple award winning journalist and film maker from Kerala, was screened in the banquet hall of the legislature complex on Wednesday evening. The feature length documentary portrays the hideous stories behind the veil of Kerala's prestigious temple festivals.
The documentary was nominated by the prestigious International Elephant Film Festival at the United Nations General assembly and has won seven international film festival awards, including the Los Angeles Cinefest Award, Hollywood International Independent Documentary Film Festival Award, The IMPACT Docs - Award of Merit, Golden Award at the World Documentary Awards. After the public screenings in Boston and Los Angeles, this is the first time the documentary is being screened in India.
There will be public screenings in Thrissur, Kozhikode, Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi, a press release said. As a part of the production of the documentary, the crew followed the lives of four celebrity elephants for over a year.
A fifth male elephant named "Sundar" who is featured in the film had made international headlines. "By exposing the abhorrent torture suffered by India's heritage animal, Gods in Shackles will touch the hearts of people and empower them with knowledge, hope and confidence that will propel them to take positive actions and protect the endangered Asian elephants," according to Sangita, who is the first film maker to ever visually record the sufferings of elephants in the temples of South India.
As many as 156 elephants had died during 2012-14, as per the official data. In 2015 alone, more than 53 elephants succumbed to deadly injuries. The death toll stands at 11 elephants and nine humans in 2016. The crew has gathered 200 hours of footage for the production of the documentary.
Kerala'a own poet laureate Sugathakumari and renowned priest Akkeeramon Kalidasan Bhattathirippad, and 12 eminent personalities have been interviewed. Sangita was the host, executive director and producer of the Bermuda Environmental Alliance's six part series, Bermuda - Nature's Jewel, which received the 2012 Bermuda National Trust award for environmental awareness. The series is currently being used as an educational aid in Bermuda's schools.
(With agency inputs)