Not anklets – but shackles, say tortured elephants

by | Jun 27, 2021 | 0 comments

Rap video AANA trumpets for these gentle, tortured souls

If only elephants could speak…

Through AANA, a tortured elephant spoke.

But, is anyone listening?

In the clamor of a country of nearly 1.36 billion people (and counting), many of whom live in poverty, will someone hear the painful trumpet of an abused pachyderm? Even if they do, will it cause an ache in their hearts?

MUSCAT – Somewhere in Kerala…

A parade of richly decorated ceremonial elephants with gold caparisons and several lumpy men on their backs; thundering beat of drums, percussions, blaring music, deafening fireworks

Why not embellish this visual with the roars of a thousand plus thumping, wrists pumping masses too?
Who will not love to see a festival visual like this? Makes a pretty picture postcard. Better still, a very throbbing and colourful video.
But come closer. Weave through this wild, relentless cacophony of noise-music-sound; wipe the dust and cobwebs from your eyes and get closer to the imprisoned legs of these huge pachyderms and see not just the heavy shackles, but see for yourself the cuts, abscesses… ankles covered in wounds.
Tumours on their hips…
Wounds near their tusks…

The pain list is endless.
As writer and activist, Rukmini Sekhar, noted (in The Sunday Guardian – 2015), such elephants are “chained, gored, beaten, poked, wounded, starved, blinded, maimed, imprisoned for life, their spirits broken…”
If only they could talk… These gentle giants would then sadly trumpet a horrific tale of torture and hell.

But what they couldn’t say, Ananthakrishnan K P and his TMC (Trivandrum Medical College) team have said – loudly and fiercely.

Exposed the ghastly truth
The people of TMC have spoken for these tortured innocent giants. Not just spoken, but unveiled the ghastly truth about the torture endured by many of these captive elephants. The rap video has exposed the shameful unwillingness and feigned, blood-stained ignorance of a large segment of aanapremis (elephant lovers), who with their silence are equal party to this crime against these innocents — who have as much as a right as any to live a free and unfettered life.
Isn’t it actually murder?

“AANA depicts the life of a captive elephant. Getting captured, tamed, all that cruelty, and then the exploitation for festivals. Everything going on a repeat, getting killed bit by bit, and finally succumbing to all of it. 

Isn’t it actually murder?” asks Ananathakrishnan, the main creator of this video, and a final-year medical student of TMC, in this interview with Black & White.

Why are we blind?
The captive elephant is the subject of this powerful, searing rap video by the people of TMC. It doesn’t mince words, and the creators have set rage to new levels of music. It is not just infectious; it is eye opening. 

These giants can’t talk. But wonder why WE can’t see?

“Captured from the forest 

Tied up here 

Locked up in chains and sedated 

Beaten left and right 

Burning firecrackers to scare me 

This is not my anklet, these are my shackles 

This is not my necklace, these are my shackles…” (From AANA – watch on YouTube: Anantha K P)

Let AANA speak

These giants can never talk. But wonder why WE cannot see? Why are we pretending to be blind to the atrocities against these totally innocent creatures? Why are we refusing to see the ugly reality where every type of cruelty is being arbitrarily meted on some of these captive elephants? If they can’t talk and if we refuse to see, then, we will be forced to hear the truth — Let AANA speak. No, let it thunder.


Why did you create this rap song? And why elephants?
On January 29 this year, I happened to see a Whatsapp status, Karnanu aadharaanjalikal (homage to Karnan).
Karnan was a famous elephant and statuses paying homage were flowing in. Most of these people who have put statuses have enjoyed watching elephants at festivals, which is actually a world of torture for the latter. And, now these people are paying homage to the dead elephant. For me, this was a terrible paradox.

So you have been holding these views since a long time?
I held these views against elephant torture since a long time now but I did not how to express them. In college, I had been part of the SFI (Students’ Federation of India) and also part of the college union. This must have helped me develop my thought process. I was also inspired by Oorali (a band in Thrissur, Kerala) and Vedan (Malayalam rapper, known for anti-caste songs), who had used music to express their views.

How long did it take to make this video?

I got some free time during the lockdown phase and so I tried to rap and then released a video regarding life during lockdown on my Instagram page. My work was appreciated and I realised that rap worked for me – it was a good way to express my views. So when I saw this Whatsapp status, I thought I should try to write about this and that’s how AANA came into being.
It took me two days to finish the writing. Then I approached my junior, Ambadi, who conceived the video. It took me around two days to finish recording the vocals at Jithin’s house and the little of music programming. We both knew a bit of music programming but we wanted to produce the song in the best manner possible. We also had exams coming up so it was tough for us to dedicate a lot of time to it. So we approached Diveen ‘Chettan’ (as we call him). He agreed to produce the song. But owing to other commitments, the music production took almost a month. By that time we had our university models, first mine, followed by my juniors. That was a tough part. We decided that we will shoot the video between my exams, preferably shoot for two days and that too on a Friday and a Saturday, as I had a two-day gap between my exams. We wound up the shoot in two days. Then after the model exams, they started editing, which took a week. Although the college had a youtube channel, we did not have enough subscribers so we thought about approaching a private channel. And so the video was released on May 10, on a private channel.

The video raised a storm, right?
The video was released at 7pm. We knew that we would be facing hate comments. And, there were many like, ‘This video will not last till tomorrow morning’. And chillingly, as the comment had stated, it happened, the next day by 7am, within 12 hours of uploading, having almost 10k views, the video got reported as spam and misleading content and was taken down. We contacted the private channel and they reviewed the report. Within 12 hours, by 7pm that day, the video was back. Interestingly, the same people who had put hate comments earlier came back and commented again, “Oh! Is the video back? When is it going to get taken down again?”.
And again, by 2pm the next day, the video got taken down. We contacted the channel owner. We got to know that he received many threat calls from strangers regarding the video, and was told that if it got reported again, it might lead to a channel strike. So the contract with the channel was cancelled.
We then decided to upload the video on my YouTube channel ‘Anantha KP’ which had around seven subscribers at that time. But after the third upload, many came in support of our views and our work. With their support, our work reached out to many and was not taken down again. Interestingly, the same people who put hate comments earlier came searching for this video and put hate comments here too. But the reports were not enough to take down the video as the third upload was reaching out to many. All the medical colleges in Kerala, and some other colleges, many famous Youtubers like Gayathree came forward support our work. The Cue Official, Matrubhumi and The New Indian Express reported about our work.
Two days after uploading the video, we got a Whatsapp audio, which was forwarded many times in many so called aanapremi groups asking to report the video.

Is music a passion for all of you – or, did you all unite just for the cause of the elephants?
Music is our passion. We all are from the same college and have worked together many times. Ambadi and I were together in SFI. I was the arts’ secretary in 2019, and Ambadi followed after that. Abdul Razique was the music club convenor and my fellow band member. Kiran was the visual media club convenor and Megha was the theatre club convenor. All others in the team have been active in college and some of them were members in the college dance crew.

We see rank cruelty to stray animals – street dogs, cats, other animals and even pets. Are you all moved by this? Are you all basically animal lovers? Any plans to start an awareness drive for them too?
Of course we are all animal lovers. Cruelty to any living thing in this world is a crime according to me. About initiating an awareness drive, I don’t know, but we will be supporting all who work towards this goal. Due to AANA, we are able to get in touch with such people who work for this cause.

The lyrics of the song delve deep into the psyche of a tortured pachyderm. You opened the heart of an elephant… One might say that it actually reads the mind of a tortured elephant. How did you visualise this pain and the suffocation and torture endured by this poor animal?
I used to go to festivals at temples and I have witnessed the cruelty meted out to these elephants. Once I saw an elephant displaying some sort of uneasiness, but instead of being cared for, he was brutally beaten. I can still visualise the marks the beatings made. And instead of letting him rest, he was pushed, prodded, beaten and taken for the procession. The chains on his legs were tightened. He could barely walk. 

We all know that wild elephants are scared off by making loud noise and burning crackers. The same elephant is now standing in front of loud drum beats and exploding crackers. So we can imagine the cruel taming process it has gone through.
Yes, there are laws coming up against the cruelty, but still there is no end to the festival business, where elephants are exploited for money. What do we do to the already captured ones? We can’t let them back to the forest as they would not survive. They need rehabilitation. But why this festival business? Why this exploitation? That’s what triggers me. All the cruelty stems from this business.

The fact that it received such reactions itself shows that your video has hit the bulls’ eye. It has really touched a raw nerve among the actual abusers and it is indeed a testament of the victory you have achieved by making this revolutionary video…
Yes true. It means AANA has hit the bull’s eye. We are really happy to see the support we are getting and are looking forward to the day where elephants are no longer exploited for festivals.

Surely, along with the abuses; along with the brickbats, you must have earned many bouquets too?
There were many good comments. Many supported our views and expressed how much they wanted this cruelty to stop. Many posted their views on Instagram and Facebook, and also praised our work. What I loved the most and consider as my biggest achievement, was that many of them quoted my lyrics in their comments and posts. 

“Ee kidakkana kolusalla, ithente vilang aanu…”

“Njan marichathalla, nee okke konnathaanu” (This is not my anklet; these are my shackles…“I did not die – you murdered me.”) These were the most-quoted lyrics.

You have made a mark with your AANA video. What next? Will this activism, this interest in rapping and in animals continue? Once you get embedded into your professions, will all of these be a thing of the past?
My plan now is to pass my MBBS final exam. Meanwhile, in the beginning of June, I had released another work as a protest against doctor assault (Dr Deivam – Doctor Assault Protest – Check: YouTube: Anantha K P)
Yes, after my exams I will be busy with work, but my opinions and views will always be there and I will try my best to find time to express them. I hope this will never be a thing of the past. For me, this is a media of activism, through which I can express my views.

Were your parents, your family members, supportive of your video?

Yes, they were supportive.

Were you broken by any of the hate comments?
No. We were expecting the hate comments. But when it got taken down, and also after hearing the audio asking to report the video, I was a bit taken aback by the backwardness of their thinking.

Some viewed the video differently too, right?
People saw this video and the comments revealed the different ways in which they perceived it. Megha was seen not only as an elephant, but also as a living entity, and also as a woman who faces cruelty in society.

All of these are upto the viewers’ discretion.

Anything interesting happened during the shoot?
There was a shot where we stood on a lorry and performed. It was really hot and sweaty and we got really tired. After the shot Megha wondered out aloud: “How do these elephants stand under this scorching sun when they are transported from one place to another?”There was a moment of silence. We were going through a tiny slice of the dreadful experience that most transported elephants usually experience. And we couldn’t bear it. Imagine the plight of the elephants?

Watch on YouTube: Anantha K P
The People of TMC:
TMC is short for Trivandrum Medical College. “We are a group a students who want to think freely and express our views through art. ‘Art for a Cause’. Any student of TMC can be a part of this, so there is nothing like a fixed team,” says Ananthakrishnan.

“I wrote the lyrics and also performed it. I am a final-year student. The song was recorded at my junior’s house, Jithin AR, who is a second-year student. We did some part of the music programming, but the major part, mixing and mastering of the tracks was done by Diveen Sen Geeth, my senior from 2004 batch who now works at Chandanapally Primary Health Care Centre. The video was conceived by Ambadi S Sastha and Kiran Ajith, both of them are third-year students. The cast included Megha Mohan, a second-year student; Abdul Razique, Akshay Kumar, Sunudev, Amal Krishna and Job Julius, third-year students. Also, there were several others who helped us in the completion of the video,” explained Ananathakrishnan.

(*Ananthakrishnan is the son of Prasad Panicker, former editor of Times of Oman)

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