Review: The Jungle Book – Emotions and storytelling lost in the wilderness

‘Jungle Jungle baat chali hai pata chala hai’…and you will sing the rest on your own. That’s what the tale of the human boy living in the jungle did to audiences when it earlier featured as an animated series. Bagheera, Baloo, Shere Khan, Kaa, Raksha, King Louie, and the beloved jungle boy Mowgli played by Neel Sethi all roared alive swinging out of the forest in Disney’s live action feature film The Jungle Book which is about to hit theatres on 8 April, 2016. Hunting, wild animals and dense forest go hand in hand. And the film begins will a fast paced chase among Mowgli, the wolves and the black cat Bagheera. If you don’t know the story of Mowgli then probably this chase may hook you to save the kid’s life but if you are well versed with The Jungle Book story then this suspense element might not just work on you. The Jungle Book Lost in the woods and found by Bagheera, the human kid entrusted to the pack of wolves lives a life growing up in the jungle quite immersed in the laws and lifestyles of wolves. Sharing a close bound with the wolf Raksha who treats Mowgli as her own son, the human kid becomes a part of the wolf family and the moving creatures around. ‘Jugaad karna hai toh Mowgli se sikho’ reappears throughout the film as the typical jungle book plot progresses to Shere Khan being the antagonist and craving to kill the human boy in order to take vengeance from mankind. As the boy traverses through the jungle he meets prominent characters mainly the friendly bear Baloo, serpent Kaa and monkey King Louie who make life both difficult and sorted for the protagonist. Sudden breathtaking moments like the attacks of Shere Khan, hypnotism through the eyes of Kaa and the battle against Louie are bewildering and leave you excited. However, had there been more of such moments, the film could have lived to the excitement that the title has been carrying since years. Introduction of characters and revelation of the plot is quite predictable. The presence of Kaa is felt as soon as Mowgli lands into the deep jungle and the return of Bagheera is just not surprising. The storytelling is loose ended and certain strings are just left untouched. The wolf King Akela is killed suddenly in a second, Mowgli just leaves the pack of wolves in quite ease and Raksha lets him go without much of a hesitance, in fact the fight between the unanimous animals with Shere Khan near the end just concludes without much of an effort. The intensity of such paramount threads of the story is either not portrayed effectively or deliberately neglected. Whatever it is, the film therefore leaves you with expecting something more out of that scene or wanting the scene to be more effective.
Emotions and expressions of the animals don’t reach the audience effectively. The depth of the relation between Raksha and Mowgli has not been conveyed at all as it was in the animated series. The love for his land, for his jungle; for his home is not portrayed with vivid intensity. And, the ultimate message ‘Good over Evil’ is achieved with ease. Animation wise, Weta Digital has done a decent job in creating all the CG characters. Minute detailing done to the moment of fur, peculiar walking style of the bear, humoungous stature of the monkey, shine of the black cat and deceptive eyes of the serpent add beauty to the jungle and enhace the visual feel. Visual effects have played an important role in all the chase and fight sequences, and fast paced cinematography has fueled to enhance the VFX. However, the last forest fire sequence looks artificial with all the extra flames and lighting. VFX done by Moving Picture Company (MPC) has also played a pramount role quite appreciably in placing the CG animals, matching the background creation and creating a whole real life scene with nothing real but the boy. The Hindi version of the film has missed just one thing- The Jungle Book song. Apart from that, Nana Patekar as Shere Khan, Om Puri as Bagheera, Irrfan Khan as the punjabi Baloo and Priyanka as the seductive Kaa have done a decent job with their voice talent. There is humour, there is fear, deception and even emotions due to this talented voice cast which engages the audience in the storytelling. In fact, Om Puri’s narrative storytelling in the film at the start draws oneself into the film. Engaging music in the film builds the excitement for any suspense scene and sets the feel for a turnover moment in various occasions. The song of Baloo and King Louie is quite catchy with no specifications just like a typical jungle number. Directed by John Favreau based on Rudyard Kipling’s book, The Jungle Book is a commendable attempt from Disney to tell a remunerated tale in the live action format. And ‘what happens in the Jungle stays in the jungle’, so does the film start and end with the same element standing true to its title – The Jungle.