Email Embed Link FollowA documentary that lifts off the cultural veil to expose exploitation of temple elephants for profit Toronto, Ontario, Canada Animals
Gods in Shackles (formerly called For the Love of Elephants) is a feature-length documentary film in the making; an exposé revealing the dark side of the Indian state of Kerala's glamorous cultural festivities that exploit temple elephants for profit in the name of culture and religion.
By exposing the abhorrent torture suffered by India's heritage animal - the embodiment(s) of Lord Ganesh, Gods in Shackles offers hope to the thousands of endangered captive and wild elephants in India through heightened awareness that will inspire key stake holders and policy makers to do whatever it takes to enhance the living conditions of these intelligent animals.
We invite you to become part of a legacy by participating in the making of our documentary, and our grander vision to create a rehabilitation center for festival and temple elephants. We believe this film can create waves across India as well as around the world.
The largest congregation of male elephants in the world at Trissur Pooram 2014 We need to raise $30,000 for our post-production phase. Aside from a feeling of deep satisfaction for having contributed to a significant global cause, we also have meaningful gifts for every level of support as a way of expressing our deepest gratitude.
It will take you just two minutes to click on a "Perk" of your choice towards the right side of your screen, and make a difference in the lives of these tortured elephants.
In the meantime, our movement has been gaining tremendous momentum since our successful pre-production campaign in March 2014, when our movie was called For the Love of Elephants. We have since changed the name as we realized another movie on African Elephants has been produced by this title. Feel free to visit that campaign here: Pre-Production Indiegogo Campaign
Hundreds of people from countries around the world including Bermuda, Denmark, Switzerland, Australia, United Kingdom, Austria, Germany, France, and the United States, opened their generous hearts and helped us surpass our $40,000 goal. We are profoundly grateful to them, and have dedicated a web page exclusively to honor their generosity: Honoring Our Pre-Production Supporters
We are now ready to embark on our post-production phase and need to raise $30,000 to cover the costs of high-end video editing and sound equipment necessary to produce an effective film that meets the highest of industry standards, and pay minimum wages to our award-winning team of producers.
Producing a movie of this caliber would usually cost at least $250,000, but our generous producers and marketing experts are dedicating most of their time and talents, as they are passionate, and care deeply about this worthwhile cause.
You have the opportunity to literally Own a Piece of FREEDOM HISTORY. We are offering links from shackles of an elephant that has been released into a sanctuary, free from the clutches of slavery and abuse of its handlers. We are reintroducing these two hottest items --- Check out our "Perks" section and you can select whatever appeals to you. You can also receive other precious memorabilia. This is our way of expressing our deepest gratitude for your support.
In order to appreciate the magnitude of the Temple Elephant crisis in India one has to understand the political, commercial and cultural systems that are intertwined and have played a critical role in perpetrating the exploitation of these magnificent animals. Gods in Shackles peels off these layers through exclusive evidence from genuinely caring researchers and conservationists in India who have risked their lives and come forward to expose the deep seeded systemic corruption.
Our film has magnetized passionate elephant enthusiasts including world renowned scientists, researchers and cutting edge thinkers. I have put my life's savings into this project and now we want to include you in our mission to complete this film so we can share this message of hope for our endangered Asian Elephants.
This is a movement aimed at bringing forth justice and peace for elephants, while enhancing their living conditions. Every one of us can play a significant role in creating a just society where humans can coexist harmoniously with all sentient beings, as they are part of our miraculous web of life.
We call this film Gods in Shackles to portray that the embodiment(s) of Lord Ganesh - the very God that people in India worship - are being tortured in the name of culture and religion.
All four legs shackled; handlers seek shelter beneath elephants from scorching sun This video still filmed at Trissur Pooram reveals sad tales of torture & neglect The welfare of captive elephants in Kerala is beyond anyone's comprehension, as neglect and abuse of these intelligent animals have resulted in hundreds of deaths within just three years. A report in Kerala's daily, Malayalam Manorama says, in 2010 there were 750 captive elephants, but by 2013 the numbers had declined to 360. Post-mortem reports suggest they died of kidney, heart, and lung infections. Twenty-four captive elephants have died so far in 2014 and 65 elephants are missing, according to our sources in Kerala. So what's going on? Such dramatic reduction in numbers is pushing the elephant owners and brokers to overuse the available elephants in festivals, depriving them of their basic necessities for water, food, rest and shelter from the scorching sun, as they are transported from festival to festival in trucks.
During the May 2014 Trissur Pooram our camera crew was pushed and shoved as we tried to capture shots of blind elephants, the ones with serious leg injuries, and ulcerous growths on their body that reveal Kerala's captive elephants are tortured, neglected and exploited for commerce in the name of culture, but actually for human entertainment.
There are over 3000 festivities in Kerala between December and May, most of them displaying ornate elephants. They are forced to carry more than 1000 Kilos of weight on their back, including the deity, ornaments, massive chains, and 3-4 men, and stand beneath the scorching sun with all four legs shackled. The image above. portrays the wounds and infections from crude rusted shackles.
Massive crowd in such close proximity to the elephants, a recipie for disaster
This video still shot portrays the world famous festival "Trissur Pooram," as millions of people, mostly drunk, are dancing and singing in such close proximity to the elephants. These elephants are decorated with heavy caparisons as seen in the photo above. The central elephant is carrying a massive gold plated portrait of their deity, as these animals are forced to stand for hours on end, all four legs shackled in hot and humid weather conditions.
Deprived of their basic necessities - water, food, and rest - these elephants are transported from one festival to another, so the temples, owners, brokers, festival organizers, elephant handlers and all stakeholders can make profit. During the peak festival season the elephants are leased out (like cars) for as high as Rs. 80,000, approximately $1,400 USD per day, generating more than $100,000 USD between December and May every year.
There was a heavy downpour this Trissur Pooram. The dramatic image above depicts the precarious position in which the poor elephant is forced to stand, as it is transported through congested traffic, then unloaded at one festival, then reloaded and rushed to another festival, and then unloaded... You get the point right? Some elephants end up participating in three to four festivals per day.
This celebrity elephant the Star of Trissur Pooram, is blind on his right eye, and we were informed he has been intentionally tortured to blindness.
Sangita Iyer with Lakshmi, one of the Stars of "Gods in Shackles"
Dear Elephant Lovers: My name is Sangita Iyer (B.Sc., M.A., PG Journalism), I am an elephant lover, and the Director/ Producer of Gods in Shackles. I am also an award-winning journalist, and a three-time international award-winning nature and wildlife documentary film maker. I co-founded Bermuda Environmental Alliance, I'm honored to have received numerous scholarships and awards, all of which you can learn here: More About Sangita. I also write frequently for The Huffington Post If you're interested, you can learn more about my Personal Journey here: Sangita's Personal Journey
After producing two award winning series, and an award winning documentary, I embarked on a journey to retrace my cultural roots in Kerala, India, and reconnect with my soul animals - the elephants. I met Lakshmi, a temple elephant in December 2013 and it was love at first sight as you will see in this video below.
We share such a special bond, and naturally she's one of the stars of our film - the only female elephant, who would have been an amazing matriarch, had she been left in the wild. Such a precious and gentle friend of mine that I love so deeply!!
Gods in Shackles film is a profoundly personal and intense journey for me, as I understand the deep-rooted cultural beliefs that need to be unshackled in order to liberate the captive minds, so the captive elephants can be set free.
I have been chronicling this emerging story for the past three years, traveling to India every six months to research and build trusting relationships with elephant scientists, and key stakeholders including elephant owners and handlers. Most importantly I have invested a significant amount of time in bonding with the five temple elephants that are starring in the movie.
I have managed to pull together a world class Award-Winning team of documentary professionals, and creative people with decades of experience in leading edge technologies. Scroll down for their detailed bios.
Kathryn Pasternak - Two-time Emmy Award Winner - Story Consultant; Digby Cook - A multiple Award Winning Script Writer; Maneesh Malhotra - Video and Sound Editor; Zach Edwards - Digital Strategist; Craig Swanson - Branding and Marketing Manager; Carmen Sandor & Ayushi Sharman - Assistant Producers We have managed to interview world renowned elephant experts to create Gods in Shackles, a movie that we believe will shock the world and spur immediate action. We have also garnered the support of a team of media experts who are dedicating their time and knowledge to ensure accuracy and objectivity. If you'd like to learn more, please visit: Our Team of Experts
Most elephants used in Kerala's festivals are males. They are being robbed of their basic right to mate, tethered 24/7 for 3-4 months during their musth period. This has skewed the sex ratio of wild elephants, with 1:80 male and female ratio in some places, which could cause inbreeding, genetic issues, and deformities.
Musth is an annual cycle that causes dramatic spike in their energy levels, and pushes their testosterone levels up to a 100%, making them dominant and aggressive.
Meet our GORGEOUS FOUR BULLS featured in Gods in Shackles...
Sunder is the poster child of all temple elephants. His sad plight gripped the hearts of celebrities like Sir Paul McCartney, and after three years of court battle he now wanders freely in the Bannerghatta Biological Park, Bangalore.Freedom is our heartfelt desire for the bulls in the images below - they are festival elephants that fetch heaps of cash. These are three of the top celebrity elephants of Kerala.Ayyappan, one of the most handsome bulls. is in his musth, a powerful depiction of his frustration, as he tries to break the chains.
Jairam, another gorgeous bull is also in his musth, he doesn't even have a roof over his head. He is tethered 24/7 , and stands beneath the scorching sun during the day
Stunning Shiva Sunderam in his musth, water is being hosed into his mouth from a distance fearing his aggression.
Paul Lewis, Discovery Channel Canada President & GM is our Media Advisor. Paul brings almost 30 years of experience in the Media Industry. He has garnered international reputation for creativity, innovation and excellence as a leader of factual television programming and multi-platform content. He has launched numerous television networks and executive produced, developed and created award-winning programs broadcast around the world.
Kathryn Pasternak our Story Consultant, is the recipient of two National Emmy awards, and the nominee for two more, as well as the winner of numerous other international awards. She spent over 15 years at National Geographic Television, the last 9 years of which she was Senior Producer in the Natural History Unit.
Maneesh Malhotra is our Technical Director/ Chief Video & Sound Editor. We have been working together for the past five years, including on a six-part series, Bermuda - Nature's Jewel, that won the Bermuda National Trust Award. He also helped me produce a four-part miniseries that was featured on the Discovery Channel Canada's Daily Planet show. Maneesh has directed and worked on several indie feature films including, English Butler Masala Chai, The Tenant, Render to Ceasar, Paaji from Ajnala, Trigger Locked City, and edited over 20 short indie films, 30 music videos and more than 100 commercials.
Digby Cook is our script writer. Among his career highlights, in 2013 Digby worked with Sir Elton John and Paramount Pictures producing for the animated feature "Gnomeo," served as the Executive Story Editor on "Iris Chang & The Rape of Nanking" which earned medals at the Atlanta Film Festival and the New York Film Festival, wrote "Ronnie Hawkins – Still Alive and Kickin'' for CTV which won the 2006 Gemini for Best Biography, he also wrote "The Prince of Pot" (2008) for CBC that won a silver medal at the New York Television and Film Festival.
Zach Edwards is our Digital Strategist. He has been a full-time digital strategist since 2007, directed New Media operations in five states and over 15 months for Barack Obama's first presidential campaign; led digital campaigns for a wide variety of clients in the for-profit and non-profit sectors, co-founded three tech start-ups, and founded the data-driven consulting firm Victory Medium.
Craig Swanson is a branding and marketing expert who has created affordable and effective solutions for companies in just about every industry for almost 20 years with his team at Brandtopia Group. Craig's experience with over 100 different movie and show titles, his ability to raise money and manage projects, and his dedication to causes in his career, is a great complement to our mission and team.
Carmen Sandor is our Assistant Producer. She is one of the youngest members of our team. At 23-years-old Carmen is a journalist on the cross-roads, trying to decide whether to become a news reporter or a documentary film maker.
Ayushe Sharman a Journalism student pursuing BA Honors degree at York University is our Assistant Producer. Being raised in India, she is compassionate towards social issues, in particular animal abuse. Ayushe aspires to return to her homeland and use her reporting skills to expose the plight of captive elephants.
Our gifts are congruent with our values grounded in Nature's Principles that reflect our interconnectedness with and interdependence on this miraculous web of life.
For instance, the environmentally friendly greeting card made out of Elephant Poo - FYI it doesn't even smell (smile), T-shirts with slogans, and the amazing Sunder Memorabilia (magnet), was painted by an artist when Sunder was released into the sanctuary.
Additionally we are offering life enhancing programs, Ocean and Elephant Retreats that can transform your life inside out. Please visit our "Perks" section and just click on a perk of your choice and within two minutes you can become part of our legacy.
Risks and Challenges
Film is an extremely expensive medium of art and communication, but also one of the most impactful. Your donations will help make an immensely positive change in the lives of hundreds of captive elephants, as this film brings inhumane treatment of festival and temple elephants to light, and puts pressure on key decision-makers and animal handlers to change their practices.
Filming at the Trissur Pooram festival in May 2014 was extremely risky, as we were challenging the cultural norm - cruel treatment of elephants. No doubt the release of our film will upset the wealthy and powerful who profit from the elephants, but we are determined to produce this film. We will focus on creating awareness among the vast majority of people who genuinely care about elephants, and are especially concerned about the country's reputation.
Anything is possible during our post-production phase, technical glitches, need for additional footage, or breaking stories relevant to our documentary, all of which could cause some delay. We think we will most likely meet all our timelines, however if we're unable to do so, the film release could be delayed slightly. Rest assured, no matter what comes our way, we will produce the film without compromising its integrity, quality and content.
Also, if you have any questions regarding the use of captive elephants, or the production schedule, please ask and we will provide you with research-based information.
Denial, illiteracy, and a lack of information are the key contributing factors perpetuating the torture of one of the most intelligent animals on the planet.
Gods in Shackles will serve as a powerful and necessary tool to create deeper awareness about the plight of captive festival elephants, inspire shifts in perceptions and mindsets, and foster empathy and kindness toward these gentle and sentient beings.
This will be a profoundly moving documentary that pulls back the veil on the festivals to show how these noble animals are treated for the benefit of ritual and amusement. But more than an exposè, the film is also a call to action, as we believe it will resonate deep within the hearts and minds of all stakeholders involved in the festivities, and empower them to do their parts to enhance the welfare of the elephants.
We believe this film has the potential to create waves across India, changing the way in which its heritage animal is being treated, and ultimately enhancing the living conditions of captive elephants not only in India, but also other parts of the world.
As an extension of this film, it is our broader goal to help establish a rehabilitation center for festival and temple elephants to live peacefully for the rest of their lives.
We need your support to make this happen! Indeed, you – our supporters – are the transformers. We will keep you updated every step of the way until we release the film and deliver on our promises.
Sangita has a stellar track record of delivering on her promises. In this regard, she has received numerous endorsements from major media executives, including the Discovery Channel Canada President, and highly influential leaders like Sir John Swan, the longest serving Premier of Bermuda.
"Sangita is a passionate and fearless journalist dedicated to the environment and the protection of wildlife. Her commitment to her beloved elephants of India is extraordinary. It's a story she is determined to tell and Sangita has the experience, the knowledge and the skills to do it. But most importantly Sangita brings her own humanity and sensitivity to all her projects to make them powerful and truly unforgettable".
Discovery Channel Canada President & GM, Paul Lewis
"I have known Sangita for nine years, I first met her when she came to work at our local news broadcaster, as a nightly anchor. She was an excellent, honest presenter of the news and brought awareness of her passion – the environment – to the community at large. Her love for the environment is exceptional and she puts all her energy into making things happen.
Sangita recognizes the synergy not just between the environment and people, but between people and people. She made a positive impression on Bermuda on how we treat the environment and each other. She gave of her time and effort generously to a place that was not even her birthplace, which speaks to the strength of her character."
I know that no matter what she does, be it setting up an environmental program in a local school or saving the Elephants in India, her heart and soul will be in it, and success will follow."
Sir John Swan, longest serving Premier of Bermuda
You can read more endorsements here: Sangita's Endorsements
If you'd like to look at some of Sangita's previous work on nature and wildlife feel free to check out this miniseries that was featured on Discovery Channel Canada:
If you're unable to contribute financially, we'd be grateful if you considered dedicating a few minutes a day to help spread the word by sharing the link to this campaign on your Facebook page and Twitter accounts, and by emailing your family and friends.
Please be sure to use the Indiegogo share tools below, and let's give voice to help alleviate the pain and suffering of our beloved gentle giants - one of the most intelligent and empathetic animals on the planet.
Our deepest and most sincere gratitude for anything you can do to help these majestic animals.
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