The Jungle Book – The magic of childhood returns
If you are a 90’s kid, born in India, you are sure to be excited about the release of The Jungle Book. Get ready to take a walk down memory lane and embrace nostalgia with the cinematic touch of Disney as Mowgli, Baloo, Bagheera, Shere Khan and all the fantastic characters return in this fantasy adventure film. We had the privelege of chatting up with Siddharth Roy Kapoor, MD and CEO, Disney India, Vishal Bharadwaj, Music Composer for the Hindi rendition of the film and Neel Sethi, our very own Mowgli. Here are excerpts from the conversation.
Siddharth Roy Kapoor, MD and CEO, Disney India
What memories has The Jungle Book brought back for you?
We’ve all grown up on all these characters. Just the fact that it was going to be done in live action, it was going to be given the Disney magic and that an Indian-American boy was playing Mowgli, was a big deal for us. Neel is the only living thing in the entire film. Technology has grown to such an extent today that everything else in the movie is actually not living. Neel was performing the incredible feat of acting on a sound stage in LA as though he was in the middle of the jungle with all these creatures. That’s really incredible.
How did you go about with the casting for the Hindi version and how important was it to have Nana Patekar as Shere Khan again?
Nana Patekar was our first choice. We wanted to cast known voices for each of these parts because each character is so well known. We all know Baloo, Bagheera, Kaa, Shere Khan and King Louis. And so we wanted to get voices that we all recognize, love and enjoy. We made our list and had a first choice, second choice and so on. Thankfully, as soon as we approached all our first choices, they agreed to do it because they all love The Jungle Book. Priyanka (Chopra) said that to be able to voice ‘Kaa’ with the fact that you’ve grown up on this character was something very special for her.
Since The Jungle Book is so famous in India, what plan have you charted out for the release?
We are planning a very wide release. It’s going to be in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu since it’s a film that is going to appeal to everybody.
Is your marketing budget closer to what you’d have for an Indian film?
Other than the fact that we can’t go on reality shows and can’t do city visits across the country (to promote the film), pretty much everything else is like a Hindi movie. We’re doing promotions across television, radio, print and digital media as well. There are many things that we’re doing that we would do in the exact same manner for a local production.
Today VFX is the way forward, across the world and even in India where a movie like Baahubali wins the National award. What are your thoughts on it?
I think VFX is very important as long as it’s in the service of telling a great story. VFX can really aid a story with a great script.
Vishal Bhardwaj, Music Composer – ‘Jungle jungle baat chali hai’
How did you feel when you were asked to recreate the Jungle Book anthem once again?
I think it was the year 1992 and it was my first break. I had just shifted from Delhi and was struggling in Bombay. Someone else was supposed to do this song but at the last moment he backed out and Gulzar sahab called me. He said that we have to do a song but it had to be recorded the very next day as it had to go on air the day after. It was a Sunday morning and I went to his place and played him some tunes. He’s a genius and a master. He wrote this line ‘Chaddi pahan ke phool khila hai’. We recorded the song and it became a big success. It was my first big success. And that’s how my career started.
After 23 years, I got a call and was told that we have to revive the same song. And this time too, the issue was the same – we had just one day to record it because I was going to shoot Rangoon. But I’m so happy that this song is brought alive once again.
Neel Sethi, Mowgli
You are the only actor in The Jungle Book and we see you doing a lot of little stunts in the film. Did you have to undergo any special preparation for your role?
We shot on the Green/Blue screen. It’s really just me jumping from one blue shaded platform to another and they make it look like a 400 feet drop. When I first watched it I thought, “I’m so cool”. Because I didn’t really do that but it looks like I did (smiles). I got trained in Parkour, which is basically running but a cool way of running.
How was the experience of shooting the song ‘Bare Necessities’ where you are seen sitting atop Baloo?
That’s the most real scene that we’ve done because it was actual water. There was a huge styrofoam with a brown fuzzy carpet on top. And Jon (Favreau, Director) was the head of Baloo, so he would get into the water and lean back. When Baloo splashes me, it’s actually Jon who’s splashing me. He would keep changing it so that I wouldn’t get bored of what we were doing. So he would splash me and I would react to it by splashing back. Those were real reactions. That wasn’t acting.
Out of all the animals that you’re shown with, which is your favorite one?
I like Baloo the bear because he’s so free spirited and laidback. He’s very calm and happy.
How did your friends react when they saw you in the trailers of The Jungle Book?
Most people think that it’s really cool. But they don’t realize how big it is (smiles). But I’m very happy.
Now that you’re a star, are you treated any differently at home?
Not at all! Not one bit! My sister still beats me up (laughs)
So do we see you in anymore movies?
I hope to do more but I don’t know yet.