Monday, April 4, 2016

Revisiting the Jungle Book many years later as an adult!

I loved “Mowgli”, when I was a kid. I was damn engrossed in Jungle book cartoon series which was coming on DD national Chanel on Sunday morning. I fell in love with every character of the Jungle book and never missed a single episode. Jungle Book meant Mowgli to me and I was not aware that there are other stories too. I hadn’t realized until now that The Jungle Book is actually a number of short stories and songs or verses. When I was a child, I expected the whole book to be about Mowgli. But when I read now surprisingly I found myself not disappointed because I knew its not only about Mowgli. I enjoyed other stories as mush as I enjoyed Mowgli’s story. Its a children’s book yet it is not only meant for Children! There are stories of white seal, Mongoose, Elephants and other animals. What I liked the most is there is a good concept behind every stories.

The Jungle Book finds the perfect balance between two universes too often dissociated, humans and animals. The Jungle Book transcends the antagonism to a more psychological level, through the story of a little boy, virtually made an animal from his raising by a family of wolves and his tutoring by a black panther named Baghera, who must return back to the men's village to escape from the terrifying Shere Khan, the tiger who made every man a personal enemy, a hatred rooted in his irrational fear of fire: the element that interestingly differentiates humans and animals, fire as synonym of weapon, the same that killed Bambi's mom, or the same fire that almost destroyed the forest when men were hunting. Although Mowgli never learned how to make a fire, because he's still an animal, he carries his own race's dangerous heritage, his life is threatened because of his 'human nature', which makes the assimilation of 'animal culture' totally pointless. The irony is that the 'animal culture' is very similar to humans: elephants constituted an army, monkeys a kingdom, so the line between the two worlds becomes very uncertain. But The Jungle Book insists on making these two worlds totally incompatible through various episodes starting with Mowgli trying to adapt, becoming an elephant, dancing and partying with the monkeys, even standing up to Shere Khan but ultimately, his weakness as a human prevents him from being accepted. This is the point, Mowgli can become stronger only with a human entourage, it's not about differences as weaknesses, but as potential strengths. And Mowgli's coming-of-age can only be achieved when he'll understand the foolishness of wanting to be what we are not, a lesson that should also learn the zany King Louie who wants to know the secret of fire from Mowgli, to be 'just like humans'. Mowgli's dilemma is to accept his own condition and do what nature commands is undermined by an emotional conflict: Baloo vs. Baghera.

During the first act, Mowgli is lead by Bagherra whose mission is to conduct Mowgli to the village. Baghera is a serious and no-nonsense character with an admirable sense of responsibility. But Mowgli chose Baloo as a fatherly figure because Baloo is simply a big kid who takes life just the way it comes. Baloo and Baghera are the perfect yin and yang for the story. My two favorite moments, although not the most 'impacting' occur when Mowgli finally meets Shere Khan, and is given ten seconds to run away, Mowgli confidently gets himself ready to fight where Shere Khan suddenly jumps roaring at Mowgli's terrified face, in one second before Baloo's providential interaction, Mowgli as a vulnerable little child. My last favorite moment is when Baghera starts singing at the end after Mowgli chose to go by himself. It was a nice twist from a very serious character, adding the same level of three-dimensionality than when even the cool and good-natured Baloo decided to take Mowgli to the village. And speaking of the ending, although it's not a canon of adaptation from Rudyard Kipling book, it's morally faithful to the spirit of the film that commands to each creature to be among its own, and Mowgli didn't need to be pushed by Baghera or kept by Baloo, he made his decision alone, after being hypnotized not by a more pleasing form of Kaa-like creatures.

The Jungle Book is a cheerful and dazzling celebration of child literature, talking animals, coming-of-age story, music, dance, thrills and chills and for every laugh, a little tear, but not so much tear in a very feel-good story, except one for the great Kipling who couldn't have a greater epitaph honoring his extraordinary contribution on the field of fiction writing.

I’m blogging about #MyMowgliMemory at BlogAdda.