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Mowgli The Legend Of The Jungle Movie Review: Why Another Weak-Willed  Jungle  Book?

Subhash K . Jha

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Mowgli The Legend Of  The Jungle(animation)

Directed  by Andy Serkis

Rating; **(2 stars)

Netflix’s big-screen experience of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book is here shrunken in  size. And it’s not just the size of the screen that’s diminished.  This adaptation, coming just  two years after  Jon Favreau’s fabulous take on the timeless  tale of animals  and human beings , is feeble   redundant, and deplorably  downsized,often  resorting to  trite ploys  and  tested gimmicks to get our attention.

The  films is not only irrelevant in the light  of the earlier adaptation, it is also far bloodier with  deep bloody wounds  playing a  large hand in making us  feel the sinisterness of jungle life.  Got the  gore. But where is  the  enigma of  the  jungle? Those familiar with the Kipling saga(and who is not!) would know how the film adaptations work. The characters are all talking animals , while little Mowgli has to be a bright animal-like creature of  the  dark. Tragically little Roshan Chand doesn’t measure up. He is eager to make Mowgli come  alive, sometimes way too eager.

Director Any Serkis needed to exercize  more control over   the proceedings. The  narration seems  to run all over the place.And the episode where Mowgli is sent  to a village to be humanized looks as strenuously offkey as  the institution in the recent Hollywood film Boy Erased where the  young gay protagonist is sent to “think straight”. There is nothing moreselfconscious than a community committed  to conformity.

The “Indian” village  seems straight  out of a fairytale book with  popout pictures, with Freida Pinto doing a Hollywood equivalent of  village nautanki, bovine smile quivering lips and all.Pinto speaks Hindi as if she had just picked it up from watching English Vinglish in a loop. Little dark Indian boys in loin cloths(with their skin coloured to  look suitably non-Caucasian) scamper around frolicking with not a  care  in the world.

Agreed, Kipling’s  vision  subsumed an aspirational fantasy. But updating  a classic is all about keeping the faith alive  by  renewal. This adaptation of Kipling seems  frozen in time, occasionally  casting aside its mantel of stagnancy to reveal a heart that actually beats.Most  of  these moments are accrued  in the scenes featuring the voice of Christian Bale as  the wise compassionate panther Bagheera.

I have seldom seen an actor do  a more effective voiceover.When Bale speaks, we  listen.

The  rest of the animals are also voiced expertly. However Bendict Cumberbatch’s Sher Khan is  no  match to his counterpart Idris Elba in  the 2016 adaptation.

Staring at the disappointing  take on the Kipling classic , I wondered why the brains behind this whitewashed  homage to the animal kingdom needed to put their mind into making this limp leafy drama in the  first place.

There  is a sequence,  ostensibly poignant, where  Mowgli is  confined in a wooden cage by villagers . Bagheera comes visiting . Mowgli screws up his face and pleads  to be taken away. Bagheera refuses and walks away.

At  that moment I felt exactly  like Mowgli. Trapped in a situation I  didn’t appreciate. Luckily Netflix gives  us the option of the ‘off’ button.

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