For a change, this time, Mr. Pehlaz Nihalani, the beloved chief of Censor Board in India is right. The Jungle Book is too scary to be given a U certificate. Yes, this time, the Jungle is dark and full of fearsome creatures. I am sure the parents will enjoy more than their children in this Jungle.
The story is known to all of us. Mowgli, a boy is being raised by the wolves in a Jungle. He also considers himself a wolf and trains with Bagheera to become a perfect wolf. When Sher Khan threatens to kill every animal if they do not produce Mowgli to him on a platter, Mowgli reluctantly starts his journey to a human abode accompanied by Bagheera. In the way, he meets Baloo, the bear whose only purpose in life is to eat honey, more and more honey. Sher khan kills Mowgli’s wolf father Akela while Mowgli is away. Mowgli comes back with Bagheera and Baloo to take revenge. That’s the complete story but this doesn’t give a complete picture of the visual extravaganza called The Jungle Book. Director Jon Favreau takes a different path than all his predecessors and gives us a Jungle which is really scary. The visuals are stunningly fearsome. The jungle and all its animals are so real that it’s unbelievable that this film was shot fully in Disney Studios in downtown LA.
The Jungle Book is a perfect blend of Indian Masala and world-class visual effects. The story is inherently Indian as Rudyard Kipling imagined it happening in an Indian jungle. It has mother-son emotions (so what the mother is a wolf and son is human), it has friendships, it has humor and it also has a revenge track. The villain Sher Khan is purely Indian. The action starts right from the word go and believe me these action sequences are not a child’s play. You will feel the adrenaline rush throughout the film. you will never notice that all the characters except one are animals because the animal instincts are absent and only more familiar human emotions are visible.
Our Mowgli, Neel Sethi does a tremendous job here. His conversations never feel animated or out of sync. He displays strong character with childlike innocence. He never goes over the top as happens with most of the children in films. His sincerity does more than half of his job. In the animals Bill Murray as Baloo and Scarlet Johansson as Kaa, the python stand out. Ben Kingsley as Bagheera does a decent job. I watched both English and dubbed Hindi versions back to back and I find Hindi version more enjoyable as it has more familiar voices of Om Puri (Bagheera), Nana Patekar (Sher Khan), Irfan Khan (Baloo) and Priyanka Chopra (Kaa, the charming python) in it. Irfan Khan makes his presence felt with his Punjabi accent so does Priyanka Chopra in her seducing voice. It appears that the producers think what I think that is why they have released it in India one week ahead of US.
I belong to the generation that has all the right reasons to rush to the theater to catch the first-day first show. Very smartly Favreau has not relied purely on the nostalgia factor and has given us something that has its own identity as an excellent work. It has a rare balance of emotion, Humor, great acting and stunning action. The 3D is top notch and you will jump off your seats at several occasions.
But where was the song “Jungle Jungle Baat Chali hai Pata Chala Hai, chaddi pehan ke phool khila hai phool khila hai”. I couldn’t find it. It was disappointing.
Stop whatever you are doing and rush to the theater near you. If you are in your late twenties or early thirties don’t take your children with you because if you take them half of your time will be spent on explaining who the hell Mowgli is and why you like him more than Chhota Bheem.