I had a disquietingly funny thought half way through Jungle Book. Something that involved a Tamil director at the helm of a movie like this: It happened right at the moment when I thought danger was temporarily at bay; Shere Khan had just come to know that the ‘man cub’ is no longer among the wolf pack, Akela having told him so.
Shere Khan must retreat satisfied, surely?
In answer, the massive Royal Bengal had sprung forward, and in a swift, fluid motion, ripped apart the old Akela. I flinched. The guy next to me reared as if struck. A child wailed.
These ‘jump-out-at-you’ scenes took me by surprise – even inspired fear as they were obviously meant to, but I loved them.
And right there, I was seized by a thought. A strange one involving a few Tamil directors, and these jungle-vaasis.
What if; what would happen if these animals were to be directed by a few of our folk?
The stoic Bagheera would have pools of unshed tears in his eyes – much like an elderly Sivaji. Akela’s death would have brought about a mad killing spree (from which everyone would have escaped unhurt, of course). Raksha – the beloved mother wolf – would stuff her knuckles (paws, if you will) in her mouth and throw herself on a ledge of rock to weep in peace.
Shere Khan, on the other hand, would live in the most opulent cave, ever – rippling whiskers and all.
For Mowgli though, I could only think of this especial song.
(Of course, it had to have Rajini in it)
Disquieting thoughts aside, this version of Jungle Book is a far, (wild) cry from the warm, friendly animals that we have been acquainted with in the previous versions. The indulgence in the past was quite justified, of course. The target audience were children, and a harmless python that wrapped its coils lovingly around little Mowgli, so that he can count its teeth – was not only looked on fondly, but encouraged. The Jon Favreau version, though, speaks to the same audience. Only, it knows they are no longer children. And so, Jungle Book has grown – along times, and right along its first set of cheerleaders.
Lupita Nyong’o as the wildly gentle and gently fierce Raksha, Ben Kingsley as the seemingly aloof (and dispassionate) Bagheera, Idris Elba (he’d make a terrific James Bond, by the way) as the malevolent Shere Khan, Bill Murray, the affable, business-like Baloo, Neel Sethi as Mowgli …and Rudyard Kipling himself somewhere along the tale. Much as his autobigraphy – Something of Myself – would tell you, he was, somewhere, some time when he lived – a Mowgli – removed against his will from the place of his birth, and transported to a land that he barely knew, vernacular idiom still on tongue. The Ruskin Bond of an earlier century:
“Once, I passed the edge of a huge ravine a foot deep, where a winged monster as big as myself attacked me, and I fled and wept. My Father drew for me a picture of the tragedy with a
There was a small boy in Bombay
Who once from a hen ran away.
When they said: ‘You’re a baby,’
He replied: ‘Well, I may be:
But I don’t like these hens of Bombay.’
This consoled me. I have thought well of hens ever since.”
I’d loved a particular tale as a child – one of the many in Kipling’s Jungle Book. I don’t quite remember everything, just a hazy sketch involving a pet mongoose that saves his family from a nesting cobra and its mate. Rikki Tikki Tavi and a slew of other tales by Kipling were huge favourites.
And that’s perhaps the only grouse I have with these several adaptations of Jungle Book.
There’s Mowgli, there’s Bagheera, and there’s Baloo. That’s really all we get to see.
What if we had one with Rikki? What if Toomai, the elephant boy were to be seen on film again? What about a tale wound around Her Majesty’s Servants? Or a nice little anthology of Kipling’s lesser known works?
All on film?
The Jungle Book review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.