‘Junglee’ review: Compelling cause but middling cinema

A still from ‘Junglee’

A still from ‘Junglee’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Chuck Russell's Bollywood debut is good news for animal lovers.

There’s good news for animal lovers. Here’s a film to finally call their own. Junglee, which is Chuck Russell’s Bollywood debut makes a case against poaching, ivory objects and cruelty heaped on animals. Beyond this compelling cause, all else is rendered two-dimensional. The characters feel like cartoons. There is some childish attempt to force bad humour. Plot? What is that? Something so wafer thin that you’d have figured at the start itself, right down to the end. Yet, I think I spotted some three to four credits for the story alone. There’s Thailand posing as exotic Kerala with some quaint puja, festivals and the mandatory but poorly executed kalaripayattu thrown in. And, of course, mention an elephant and can Lord Ganesha be far behind? He has a cameo too.

  • Director: Chuck Russell
  • Cast: Vidyut Jammwal, Atul Kulkarni, Pooja Sawant, Akshay Oberoi, Asha Bhat, Makrand Despande
  • Run time: 115.05 min
  • Storyline: An elephant sanctuary and one man’s battle against the poachers to save the tuskers.

Vidyut Jammwal plays Dr. Raj Nair, a vet who saves animals, both in his clinic and on the streets of Mumbai. His father runs an elephant sanctuary where poachers (Atul Kulkarni is one of them) come looking for a fabulous pair of tusks. Raj has unresolved issues with his father, which could have added some emotional heft but turn into a needless burden for an already wobbly movie. Then there’s the mahout Shankhu (Pooja Sawant) who keeps staring and smiling indulgently at Raj and a ditzy journalist Meera (Asha Bhat) who seems to have needlessly strayed into the jungle, and the film. The roll call would be incomplete without a special mention of Makrand Deshpande who can be spotted in Bollywood as a perennially khiskela (Mumbai patois for eccentric) character when he is not forever stationed at Prithvi theatre in Juhu.

Which brings us to the USP of the film: action. Nicely executed but nothing extraordinary. It made me wonder about the logic of the essential cultural exchange in the film. Russell brings nothing on board that couldn’t have been attempted by any Indian director. There’s absolutely nothing here, that would have challenged him artistically in coming to Bollywood either.

There is a sweet stray dog and magnificent tuskers and an unintended nostalgia unleashed for Haathi Mere Saathi. I came out raving about Kulkarni's fitness and agility and Jammwal’s voice and jawline. But that wasn’t quite the point of the film, was it?

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 5:14:37 PM |

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