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Award-winning documentary on temple elephants to be screened tomorrow

Poornima Nataraj Bengaluru: July 22, 2016, DHNS 2:34 IST
CHAINED: A scene from the award-winning documentary 'Gods in Shackles'. DH PHOTOS
‘Gods in Shackles’, an award-winning documentary film that focuses on the life and misery of captive elephants, will be screened in the city on Saturday.

The 92-minute-long non-fictional video, shot and produced by Canada-based journalist and wildlife filmmaker Sangita Iyer, was made with one objective: to subvert any fascination for elephants used in processions, temples, entertainment, rides, resorts or circuses.

‘Gods in Shackles’ is an epic investigative film that lifts the curtain and reveals the dark side of Kerala’s glamorous festivals where the endangered Asian elephants are tortured and exploited for profit.

Iyer, a native of Palakkad, spoke to Deccan Herald about the documentary. She quoted the head priest of a famous temple in Kerala as telling her on record, “The presence of elephants in temples has nothing to do with the religious rituals nor is there a mention of it in our scriptures. It is all about the money and the farce status symbol for the rich and the mighty in Kerala.”

Iyer spoke emotionally about the plight of 600-odd pachyderms, especially bull elephants, that are living in poor condition as they are tied in shackles on their wounds and tumours and forced to parade for the temple. When these bull elephants are in their ‘musth’ (high level of testosterone) condition, they are starved to suppress their aggressive behaviour. She said that five elephants died during her filming from 2014 to 2016.

The film released in January this year and Iyer managed to get it screened in the Kerala Legislative Assembly on June 29 to showcase the suffering of hundreds of elephants that are housed and kept for various religious festivals in that state. She said many ministers and officials were either unaware of elephants’ suffering or had been “deliberately turning a blind eye to this issue”. The only way this inhuman practice can be addressed, Iyer said, is to bring awareness and make every common man watch the documentary so as to change their mindset.

‘Gods in Shackles’ was nominated to the prestigious International Elephants Film Festival at the United Nations General Assembly on the World Wildlife Day. It has already won six film festival awards. Iyer has invested three years and her life’s savings to chronicle the story. Her camera crew gathered more than 200 hours of footage, including undercover videos that portray evidence of barbaric torture. ‘Gods in Shackles’ will be screened at PVR Cinemas, Audi 4, Forum Mall, Koramangala, on Saturday at 3.30 pm.

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