EXCLUSIVE: The heart-wrenching story of Raju the Elephant — the animal who had been kept in chains and abused for 50 years and cried when he was freed — is going to be made into a feature film. The rights have just been acquired by U.S.-based manager-producer Larry Brezner along with the father/son team of Vijay and Prakash Amritraj who will also be producing. Raju the Elephant is now in a sanctuary after a daring, middle-of-the-night rescue by a team at the Wildlife SOS Conservation and Care Center in India. His story went viral, capturing international attention.
The deal for the rights comes as the previous handler of the elephant is now trying to sue to get the animal back at the same time the government is weighing animal cruelty charges against him. A court is ruling on whether the handler can get the animal back on Sept. 4th.
When Raju was emancipated from his chains during a dangerous midnight intervention by those at the sanctuary, pus oozed from the abscessed wounds in his leg. The animal was starving and had sores all over its body. The handler had even plucked its tail raw to sell hairs as good luck charms. Raju was transferred to a new home last month where he is now able to walk free, eat decent food, receive medical care, lounge in his favorite pool and mix with other elephants — none of which was provided to him during his 50 years of life in clawed shackles that dug into his skin.
In fact, the abuse was so severe, that he resorted to eating plastic and paper to fill his stomach and his bony body was a shocking sight. Brezner went to great lengths to get the rights for the film. He contacted Vijay Amritraj who was on his way to India to help acquire rights. Brezner, a producer on the sequel to the box office hit Ride Along, said: “Fearing the elephant was going to die, the rescue happened on Independence Day on July 4. Through the strategic planning of the Wildlife SOS in the U.S. and the Indian Wildlife SOS it was decided, due to his failing health, this mission had to take place immediately to save his life.”
The story will center on heroes Kartrick Satyanarayan (head of the SOS Center in India) and Nikki Sharp (head of the Wildlife SOS Foundation). What great role for an Indian actor and a female lead as this story is surely to be embraced internationally.
When he was freed, Raju became known as the Elephant Who Cried. An emotional story which harkens to such films as Born Free, Sounder, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, Free Willy and War Horse, to name a few, this is sure to enter the pantheon of heartwarming, real-life films to come out of Hollywood.