All aboard the Nostalgia Express 90s kids ! Well, when we mention the 90s, we are obviously referring to the beautiful anime adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s anthology of short stories that he aptly named The Jungle Book. Kipling spent his childhood years living around the Pench National Park in Sionee, Madhya Pradesh, India where his father was stationed and was hugely inspired by how human beings and animals coexisted through an unsaid law of the jungle.
This very popular collection of short-stories, we lovingly came to know through Jungle Book Shonēn Mowgli which was aired throughout the 90s (You can watch some of the episodes here ) and with which we were fortunate enough to grow up with. It became such a regular feature that it was almost a family tradition to start the Sunday with Gulzar Sahab’s verses and Vishal Bhardwaj’s music in:
Jungle jungle baat chali hai, pata chala hai,
Chaddi pahanke phool khila hai, phool khila hai…
(The word is spreading through the jungles, it has been known,
A shorts-wearing flower has bloomed…)
From the makers of Iron Man, Director Jon Favreau’s adaptation of this classic is a fine blend of visually appealing CGI and heartfelt story-telling whose simplistic approach to the tale induces an instant reaction to each character without invoking any unnecessarily complex layers. In the very first shot, Mowgli, played by the talented Neel Sethi, is shown to be racing through the foliage as a magnificent Black Panther chases him through the undergrowth. With an unfortunate break of a dead branch, the boy falls hard on the ground and finds himself facing the shining yellow eyes of the Panther as it towers over him. For one heart-stopping moment, the audience gasps and then you hear a collective sigh of relief as Mowgli smiles at him and they reach the gathering of the wolves together. This is the beginning of many such moments which keep you holding on to the edge of your seat!
For the uninitiated and our younger millennial readers, the Black Panther Bagheera (voiced by Sir Ben Kingsley) is the one who finds Mowgli in the jungle while the boy was just a toddler. He had understood that this ‘man-cub’ would never survive on its own in the ruthless jungle. So, he brings him over to a Wolf-pack to be raised under the guardianship of Akela, the alpha and Raksha, his spouse. As Mowgli, grows up with the wolf-cubs, he thinks of himself as more of a wolf than a man. Although he is strictly asked by the Wolf leaders to follow the code of the jungle, they cannot help but notice how different he is in his ways besides being the only ‘wolf’ that can walk on two feet which is enough to stand out among all animals as the freak. Besides being the two-legged walker, he is also seen to be highly resourceful, raising eyebrows and admonishments asking him to tone down his ‘man-tricks’ in the jungle.
The mood becomes much darker as a larger and more fierce predator notices Mowgli’s scent at the watering hole. Shere Khan, the quintessential villain of the jungle, is a tiger whose face has been badly scarred by an old encounter with a human. His immense hatred for all human beings and their ‘manly ways’ is palpable in the very air as he threatens every one, asking them to give up the boy and makes a chilling promise that he would not stop until he had him under its paws. Voiced by Idris Elba, Shere Khan’s onscreen presence is every bit as intimidating as we had expected or imagined him to be. This rivalry of pure animal hatred sets the premise of the story but shows how even the villain has a strict code that it follows, just like every other animal in the race for survival which can exist only by eliminating every threat.
In order to escape from his hunter, Mowgli travels to the other side of the forrest and stumbles upon a jolly happy-go-lucky bear who calls himself Baloo. As they become friends, Baloo sees how resourceful the boy is and encourages him to be himself than to conform to the rigid laws of the jungle. He shows him that being different is not always a bad thing and if it helps make your life happier, one should jolly well go ahead and do it! One of the classic scenes is when the bear floats down the river with his belly-up and Mowgli sits on it, as they sing “Bare necessities” without a care in the world. Bill Murray’s personality accurately seeps into the Bear’s character making him one of the most loveable characters in the story.
Favreau was faced with, perhaps, the same challenge that stood before Ang Lee as he had begun shooting for Life of Pi. Making a movie with essentially one real character with the rest being CGI-developed, it becomes a huge effort to convincingly show the interactions between characters and with their surroundings. The light and shadows have to be perfectly integrated so as to bring out the story as naturally as possible. The Jungle Book is a treat to the eyes in terms of the mesmerising visual effects as well as the gripping cinematography of a story we hold so close to our hearts. If you have ever imagined, watching the 90s anime, and thought to yourself – “How would the story look in real life ?” Well, your wait is, finally, over…
gobblpoint: Bring out the dreamy 90s kid in you once again ! We don’t know about you, but we howled every time Mowgli did, becoming one with the pack…
Disclaimer: The images used in this blog are the sole property of the makers of the film and the anime. These are not owned by us in any form whatsoever.