Netflix’s Mowgli Review: ‘Dark Retelling’ of a timeless tale

Tinsy Thomas | Updated on November 30, 2018 Published on November 30, 2018

Rohan Chand as Mowgli in the Netflix film Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

A still from the Netflix film Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle   -  Netflix

Netflix will release the Rudyard Kipling classic on December 7. However, this is not the cute and adorable Mowgli of Disney’s animated and motion picture fame. Instead, Netflix’s Mowgli is a man-cub who has to grow up fast and learn quickly to outrun his wolf brothers and outsmart Sher Khan to retain his right to stay in the pack and in the jungle. Directed by Andy Serkis, it is a gripping and realistic tale of what it takes to survive in the Indian jungle and as the director said, it is a “dark retelling” of the Kipling classic. Here, there are no catchy tunes, adorable jungle creatures or humour. Instead, the monkeys are cruel, the elephants ferocious, and Kaa the python sinister.

Andy Serkis is considered the “king of motion-capture acting”, having played Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the leads in King Kong and Planet of the Apes. He used his considerable experience and talent in bringing alive the characters of Kipling’s Jungle Book.

Formidable star cast

Indian-American child actor, Rohan Chand, gives a splendid performance as Mowgli. He plays a dark, gritty character confronting his mistaken identity. A child growing up too soon and losing his innocence while adhering to the laws of the jungle. With a man-eater on his trail, Mowgli has to learn to use his unique human skills to defeat his enemy. There is much blood and gore. One of the most unforgettable scenes in the movie is Sher Khan literally digging his claws into the child’s left arm leaving an indelible mark. Clearly, this is not a movie for children.

Andy Serkis has put together a formidable star cast to provide voice-overs in both the English and Hindi versions of the movie. While the English version has Christian Bale (Bagheera), Benedict Cumberbatch (Sher Khan), Cate Blanchett (Kaa) and Naomi Harris (wolf mother), the Hindi version has Abhishek Bachchan (Bagheera), Jackie Shroff (Sher Khan), Kareena Kapoor Khan (Kaa) and Madhuri Dixit (wolf mother) providing the voice-overs. Freida Pinto appears in both versions playing Mowgli’s adoptive human mother. Serkis himself provides the voice over for Baloo the bear in the English version with Anil Kapoor lending his voice for the character in Hindi.

Coup for Netflix

The world premiere of ‘Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle’ was held in Mumbai on November 25 at Yash Raj Studios, the first international premiere of a major Hollywood production in India. At the premiere, Serkis mentioned that he wanted to get back to the Indian roots of the classic 19thcentury story by Rudyard Kipling. The “disneyfication” of Jungle Book has endeared it to millions of children who first watched the animated classic in 1967. Most recently in 2016, Jon Favreau directed a live action film adaptation under the Disney banner. The movie went on to become a commercial box office success, minting nearly $966 million. The challenge for Serkis and Warner Bros, producers of the movie, would have been to differentiate it from the Disney production. While Warner Bros. was originally planning a theatrical release in October, doubts about the commercial prospects of the project led them to sell the worldwide distribution rights to Netflix in July 2018. This is a big coup for Netflix, which has been picking up big budget movies from studios that want to avoid the risks of failure at the box office. It is a win-win situation for both production houses and the streaming website.

(The author is a Mumbai-based freelance writer)

Published on November 30, 2018
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