(+) Graphics, voices, action, background score, Neel Sethi
(-) Lack of emotional connect, shoddy screenplay, weak script, Sharekhan
Jungle jungle baat chali hai, pata chala hai, chaddi pehen ke phool khila hai, phool khila hai…
Oh, how much we loved that song! Sunday mornings in the early 90s used to be fun. The hand-drawn cartoons used to come alive on tiny cathode-ray tubes, powered by human voices. Radha used to open her mouth wide open and say “haan”, Sharekhan used to scare the shit out of us kids, Bhalloo, Bagheera and Mowgli together taught us many things including adventure, wisdom and courage. That show was once our life!
Cartoons have come a long way since that show happened, so has the art of cinema. We no longer require cartoons to be drawn in order to see animals and a fantasy world on the big screen. Every few years, CGI takes a giant leap in terms of what can be achieved through it. The years that fill the gap between the leaps are dedicated to fine-tuning of those technologies. Jurassic Park, Independence Day, Terminator, Avatar, Life of Pi, Interstellar, The Martian have all been landmark movies in the world of CGI. When Life of Pi was released, I thought it was a great achievement in movie-making. A tiger had come to life and interacted with a human. A few other animals were thrown into the scenes, but it was the tiger that stole the show. In The Jungle Book, every animal on the big screen steals the show.
The Jungle Book talks about Mowgli’s struggles and adventures that he encounters in a bid to escape from Sharekhan. The menacing tiger is determined to kill Mowgli and get even with both Mowgli’s father for leaving the tiger’s face scarred for life by the use of “red flower” by the human! The escape drama pits Mowgli against interesting, scary and also amusing situations and characters, teaching him the lessons of survival when there’s no family ( a pack of wolves) to protect.
The story is typical. The screenplay is mostly linear and uninteresting. The difficulties that Mowgli encounters throughout the film are like Math problems in an examination. They’re all different and disconnected. They bear no relation and are just a means to introduce a new character in the story-line. The screenplay is, in fact, so shoddy that you’re hardly given any time to connect with these characters. There’s no time to emotionally connect with them!
Still, the movie has a more-than-fair share of wins. The characterization of every character you come across are top-notch. The performance of the kid is so good that you’d say he was born to do this role. The voices by the dubbing artistes (especially Ben Kingsley) are first-class except that of Sharekhan whose voice I felt could’ve been more scary and menacing. The scene with Kaa was the scariest part of the movie and that isn’t good news for Sharekhan, is it?
The motion-capture and the resulting animated characters on the screen are arguably feel realistic than ever. The locations, the renditions, the action paint a beautiful canvas of The Jungle for the audience. The background-music gels well with the screenplay.
The climax has been shot very well and the movie is successful in giving out a subtle message to its viewers about the importance of co-existence. I did hear many people discussing the damages that we, as humans, do to the jungle-folks. The “red flower” is quite significant in the story and we have seen what damage the flower can do to nature in the week that has gone by. The final scene in the movie is one of the most emotional points and probably the only time when you’ll feel nostalgic about the characters as Bhalloo, Bagheera and Mowgli are perched on the tree!
The director has done a fabulous job when it comes to building his characters, understanding them and giving them space to breathe. If he had given a little attention to weave the characters tightly through stronger story and screenplay, this could’ve been one of the best movies ever done in the history of world cinema! The Jungle Book is a one-time watch. Watch it to know where CGI has reached. If you want to feel nostalgic, download a copy of the cartoon series!