By filmmaker Sangita Iyer

The abuse was caught on hidden cameras

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Watch The Trailer

This is the pre-production trailer used in our second IndieGoGo campaign. The trailer was filmed and produced by Sangita Iyer, and edited by Maneesh Malhotra. Click here to view our first IndieGoGo campaign.

Gods in Shackles is a feature-length documentary film, an exposé revealing the dark side of the southern Indian state of Kerala’s glamorous cultural festivals that exploit temple elephants for profit under the guise of culture and religion.

By exposing the abhorrent torture suffered by India’s heritage animal,
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 enhance the living conditions of these highly social animals.

Sangita Iyer (B. Sc., M.A. PGD Journalism), Filmmaker born and raised in Kerala, India

The Truth Behind the Glitz and Glamour

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.


The World Famous Festival 'Trissur Pooram'

There are over 3000 festivities in Kerala between December and May, most of them displaying ornate elephants. These events culminate into the Trissur Pooram festival.

Only Male Elephants Used

Only male elephants are used in the festivals, and this tradition has contributed to the dramatically skewed sex ratio of wild elephants.

Prematurely Dead and Missing Elephants

There are 50,000 Asian elephants in the wild, and India is home to 30,000 of them. Over the last three years, more than 150 captive elephants have died due to torture and neglect.


About Sangita Iyer and the Team

Since day one, this film has been driven by Sangita Iyer, but hundreds of people across the world have also stepped up to financially support our crowdfunding campaigns and also help us spread the word. Here are just a few of our team members.


Sangita Iyer is a native of Kerala, India and the director and producer of Gods in Shackles. She is also an award-winning journalist, and a three-time international award-winning nature and wildlife documentary filmmaker. After producing two award winning series, and an award winning documentary, Sangita embarked on a journey to retrace her cultural roots in Kerala, India, and film the commercial and cultural layers that fuel corruption, and perpetrate torture and exploitation of elephants.

– B.Sc., Biology and Environmental Sciences
– Masters’, Environmental Education and Communication
– Post graduate studies in Broadcast Journalism
– Videography and script writing skills
– Contributing Writer for The Huffington Post
– Broadcaster and journalist since 2000
– Public Speaker
– Climate Change Presenter for Al Gore’s TCRP

Production Crew


Tony Azios, our award-winning cinematographer has filmed and reported in Asia, Latin America, and the U.S., and earned an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University’s School of Communication.


Janal Bechthold, our music composer has a diverse compositional style. She is innovative as she tends to combine musical elements and styles in a natural manner. Having produced music for films and TV, Janal’s music has appeared in numerous film festivals and broadcast (domestic and international).


Digby Cook is our script writer. Among his career highlights, Digby has 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.


Paul Lewis, Discovery Channel Canada President & GM is our Executive 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.


Maneesh Malhotra is our motion graphics and online editor. Maneesh has edited dozens of short films, music videos and commercials. Maneesh also has five years of solid documentary editing including the award winning series entitled Bermuda – Nature’s Jewel. He then went on from editing to honing his motion graphics skills, and went on to work fulltime at a production house. Because of his love for elephants, Maneesh became determined to expose the inhumane treatment of these gentle giants.


Montreal-born Tom Mullins is a post-production audio engineer, producer, composer and performs live music with Dex Donoe and DK MIDAS. Tom has toured internationally with several bands and has worked as a mix engineer and sound designer for film, TV and video games. Tom is currently the Toronto Studio Manager at La Hacienda Creative – a multi-award winning studio, including BAFTA, GANG and GDC awards.


Donald Quan is a renowned multi-instrumentalist and has toured the world over with Loreena McKennitt playing tabla, viola and keyboards. He was also a member of Lighthouse for many years and was recently the audio producer of Lighthouse’s “40 years of Sunny Days” DVD/CD. He has been nominated for several Gemini Awards and has been the recipient of 3 International and Domestic SOCAN awards for film music as well as multiple Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards.


Shaun Toutant’s work is driven by a passion for both wildlife and the human spirit. His editing portfolio runs the gamut; from music videos for Iraqi-born rappers, “Euphrates”, First Nations group “War Party”, segments for CBC newsworld’s documentary series, “Culture Shock”, visual effects at Nelvana Studios, to documentaries for CBC, NatGeo, Discovery Channel-Latin America and independent release.


Robb Watson, is a seasoned editor with over 25 years experience in both film and television. He brings his unique perspective story telling abilities and talents to God in Shackles. He was nominated twice for the best editor award at the Vancouver Film Festival.

Honorary Executive Co-Producers


Amanda Loke Kwai-lin is a fashion designer and a passionate animal lover. Amanda graduated from the Royal College of Art, and for the next decade worked in Rome, Germany and Hong Kong with the popular retail chain Esprit. Amanda opened her first store, on the Greek island of Mykonos in 1998, and launched her label Amandarling in 2002. She also opened a boutique in Hongkong Central and is now working on launching an online shop. Amanda supports elephants and orangutans organizations and has launched her own charitable foundation. In an email message to us, she said, “Your trailer for Gods in Shackles… I can’t get the images off my mind. Just need to help them, It makes me happy knowing I can contribute back and give them a voice. It’s my way of helping even if just a little.”


Andrew Mackay is the commander in chief of Gorham’s, the largest department store on the islands of Bermuda. The Bermudian born businessman believes that global environmental issues have a profound impact on every country no matter how isolated they think they are. Mackay made a substantial financial contribution to help make Gods in Shackles a reality for the world to appreciate the endangered Asian elephants.

Honorary Associate Producers


Maria Flanagan has a profound and deep passion for animals, and has been committed to their cause since she was a young girl. Maria said, “Gods in Shackles exposes the plight of elephants and the injustice and horror that humans inflict upon them with truth and honor that these magnificent animals deserve. I am thankful to Sangita Iyer for the depth of her love and respect highlighted in this film depicting the realities of life as a captive elephant used for religion. More than that, Gods in Shackles should be seen as a love letter to elephants and captive animals all over the world who are more than deserving of our protection and devotion.”


Monica Kelley is a Sciences Teacher, with a B.S. in Biology and Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership. She is active in community service, and advises a high school running club that organizes races for charity fundraising. Her goal is to educate and empower youth to make environmentally conscious decisions; both locally and globally. She was inspired to support Gods in Shackles because it exposes the exploitation of “Temple Elephants” in India.


Larry Laverty is an American actor and filmmaker based in California. He’s also actively involved in mountaineering, conservation photography, and animal rights with a focus on African and Asian elephants.


Maureen Mahon‘s father was a producer of nature films and documentaries, so she has been aware of animal issues, and has spoken out for the rights of animals, for as long as she can remember. Maureen has included animal advocacy into her business model at Maureen Mahon Interiors and is the first PETA-certified vegan interior designer. Maureen first became aware of the plight of temple elephants by following the heartbreaking story of Sundar – and later, Raju. When she learned from Sangita’s Indigogo campaign, that this torture was the rule and not the exception, she jumped at the opportunity to help bring this problem to light. Maureen is very proud to be an Honorary Associate Producer on “Gods in Shackles.”


Dr. Amy Shroff has been a veterinarian since 1992. Her professional interests are emergency and volunteering for several animals sanctuaries across Asia. Her love of elephants and devotion to their conservation brought her to Gods in Shackles as an honorary associate producer.


Ali Van Zee is a Hospice Nurse who has been an active advocate for wildlife for decades. Working with non-profit organizations, she has long been committed to ending animal abuse and exploitation for entertainment or religious purposes. In alignment with these principles, Ali is an enthusiastic supporter of Gods In Shackles to open minds and create awareness of the plight of India’s magnificent elephants.


From providing Insurance services to working in the coatings industry, Dolores has worn several hats during her lifetime. But she’s most passionate about the welfare of elephants. Dolores Whitley has dedicated countless hours volunteering in a world renowned sanctuary in Thailand where she provided elephant care and maintenance.



Zach Edwards is our digital strategist and lead web developer. He got started as a digital strategist in 2007, directing and co-directing 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 led the digital strategy for the 2014 documentary “Origins.”


Amanda Raymond earned her B.F.A in both Graphic and Industrial Design from the Rochester Institute of Technology and has a broad background with experience in Web, Graphic, Exhibit and Footwear Design. She is thrilled to be collaborating with the Voice for Asian Elephants Organization on the revolutionary “Gods in Shackles” film. As an animal lover and activist she is honored to be part of this global movement.




Progress of the Gods in Shackles Production

Gods in Shackles is a labor of love from filmmaker Sangita Iyer. The project has taken Sangita back to the temple she worshiped at as a child in Kerala, India, and the filming has covered multiple years and hundreds of hours of footage. Here is a brief outline of where we are in the process to finish the film and show it to the world!