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Indian-American child actor Neel Sethi set to impress in ‘The Jungle Book’

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Los Angeles: The director of the 3D cinematic adaptation of “The Jungle Book”, Jon Favreau, says that the Indian-American child actor Neel Sethi has brought out the charisma, spunk and a bit of swagger of world-famous fictional character Mowgli in the movie.

The team of the Disney movie conducted auditions across several countries to zero in on their Mowgli but settled for a youngster in American with an Indian connect, much like the character himself.

Favreau, known globally as the “Iron Man” and “Chef” director, said Neel’s portrayal as Mowgli is like a flashback tour to his own childhood memories around the animated character.

“You need the personality, humour, charm and the emotion of the characters. That’s really what ‘The Jungle Book’ represents. People don’t think about action… It’s fun to have it, but really what you think about are the characters and the relationships.”

“Neel really seems to capture for me what I remember of Mowgli in the film. He has spunk and a little swagger. He’s just a great kid and I loved working with him,” Favreau said here.

Neel, 12, stays in Manhattan and has his roots in Gujarat, a state to which Prime Minister Narendra Modi comes.

In “The Jungle Book”, the child actor — the only living being in a cast full of animated characters — found himself a part of Favreau’s re-imagined world of an enchanting Indian jungle, the story of which was first told via Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 timeless classic and then brought alive in the eponymous 1967 animated movie.

Favreau was excited as a child when he shared a few glimpses from his movie at Hollywood’s The El Capitan Theatre here earlier this year to a select audience of media persons from across the world.

After showing the clips, which highlighted Mowgli’s chemistry with Baloo, chase sequences and the fight sequence in which the director delved into the whole casting process, he started to get worried when there would be an end to the search for the perfect Mowgli. Then, the team stumbled upon Neel.

“We were really scared because we looked at 2,000 children and I was getting a little worried as casting is everything for me. And especially when a kid is (required to be) on the screen that much in a movie, then you don’t want someone you get tired of, or might look good only for a couple of scenes.

“You’re going to need someone who holds the screen and is interesting to watch… His habits, body movements and physicality reminded me of the Mowgli that I saw as a child,” he added.

For many Indians, the movie’s mention may be a flashback moment to the TV series, which brought Mowgli’s adventures alive in the late 1980s. And bring back memories of the “Jungle jungle pataa chala hai” title track.

But this Mowgli will be a tad different.

The live-action epic adventure will release in India on April 8, a week before it releases in the US. It showcases Mowgli’s journey of self-discovery when he is forced to abandon his home in the forest, and all the creatures he meets during his journey.

Favreau notes that “the other actors who do the voices for the animals were vitally important to bringing the characters to life”. No wonder that Favreau roped in celebrated names for the job — Bill Murray (Baloo), Ben Kingsley (Bagheera), Idris Elba (Shere Khan), Lupita Nyong’o (mother wolf Raksha), Scarlett Johansson (Kaa), and Christopher Walken (King Louie).

But the director said: “We tried to do it enough so you would see the soul of the actor, but not so much that it took you out of the reality of the movie.”

The film is heavily backed by advanced technology, with only one live action character. Explaining that, Favreau said: “You have to breathe life into this thing, otherwise it’s just an exercise in technology. And that is not entertainment.

“It needs to have a beating heart in there, and that is what your cast brings you.” (Sugandha Rawal, IANS)

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Come April, government will be more comfortable in Rajya Sabha

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs

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Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
  • In April, the opposition may lose its edge over BJP in Rajya Sabha
  • NDA led by Modi has faced many embarrassments in Rajya Sabha in past few years
  • This is expected to change soon

Come April, the opposition in the Rajya Sabha may lose its edge in the numbers game and the power to stall any government bill, as the ruling BJP-led NDA coalition is set to catch up with its rivals, though a clear majority will elude them for a while more.

BJP to soon get more comfortable in  Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia commons
BJP to soon get more comfortable in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

As 58 MPs, including three Nominated and one Independent, are set to retire in April, the Rajya Sabha math is going to change. It is set to favour the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and the trend may continue in the elections to the Upper House later too with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) having solid majorities in a number of state assemblies, especially the ones it won after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

With this, while the Congress-led opposition’s numbers will come down to around 115 from the present 123, the numbers of the BJP, its allies and sympathisers together would climb to around 109 from the present 100-odd members.

And the gap, once wide enough to let the opposition invariably have its say, will keep narrowing further in the coming months.

Of the 55 retiring members (excluding those Nominated), 30 belong to the opposition camp while 24 belong to the BJP and allies. Of them, a large number of NDA candidates are set to return while the opposition will lose a chunk of its members.

As things stand now, the Congress-led opposition has 123 MPs (including 54 of the Congress) in a house of 233 elected members (apart from 12 Nominated), while the NDA has 83 members (including 58 of BJP) plus four Independents who support the BJP (these include MPs Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Subhash Chandra, Sanjay Dattatraya Kakade and Amar Singh).

Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.
Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.

Also, for all practical purposes, the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), that has 13 members in the Rajya Sabha, is also with the NDA. This means the NDA’s effective strength in the upper house of Parliament is 100.

The gap was wider till just a few months ago. This meant that during any battle between the government and the opposition in the Upper House over bills and major issues, it was the opposition that invariably had its way. The recent example was the triple talaq legislation that the opposition stalled in the upper house, demanding that it be referred to a Select Committee.

For over less than four years, the Narendra Modi government had faced quite a few embarrassments in the Rajya Sabha thanks to the majority of the opposition, forcing it often to take the money bill route to avoid a clash in the house. Under the Constitution, a money bill needs to be passed only in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha cannot stall it.

Also Read: For Modi, Road To 2019 Will Be Steeper

However, after April, the NDA will be in a far better position.

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs (including AIADMK). But at least 30 from the NDA are set to get re-elected. So the number will rise to 106. Add three members that the government would nominate to the upper house and the final NDA tally will roughly be 109 MPs.

Further, there are fence-sitters such as the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the YSR Congress, which are not virulently against the BJP and would not oppose the government unless for very compelling reasons.

Now, for the Congress and the rest of the opposition, they are set to lose 30 MPs (including one Independent, A.V. Swamy) through retirement and would be left with around 93 members. The Opposition may win roughly 22 seats, which means that its final tally after April is likely to be around 115 members.

Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.
Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.

The gap has clearly narrowed and the government may not be at the mercy of the opposition during crucial votes and can have its way in the Rajya Sabha if it musters its numbers by deftly wooing “floater” MPs.

The three newly-elected Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) members may remain equidistant from both the BJP and the Congress, though the party is friendly with some of the major opposition parties like the Trinamool Congress.

Also Read: BJP MP Seeks Amendment to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill

In an interesting development recently, the AAP actively participated in the opposition’s walkout and the day-long boycott of the Rajya Sabha over long intra-day adjournments of the Upper House by Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu.

The AAP, which was not welcome at any opposition meetings earlier, particularly those held in Parliament House, was invited to speak at a joint opposition media interaction on the day. But nobody can be sure as to how long this bonding would last.

Partywise tally of those retiring in April-May from the opposition’s side include 13 from the Congress, six from the Samajwadi Party, three of the Trinamool Congress, two each of the Nationalist Congress Party and Biju Janata Dal and one each of the CPI-M, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.

NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons
NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

From the ruling side, 17 MPs of the BJP, three of the Janata Dal United, one of the Shiv Sena and two of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) are retiring.

In terms of state-wise vacancies to be created in April, the highest number is from Uttar Prdaesh (9), followed by Maharashtra (6), Madhya Pradesh (5), Bihar (5), Gujarat (4), Karnataka (4), West Bengal (4), Rajasthan (3), Odisha (3), Andhra Pradesh (3), Telangana (2), Uttarakhand (1), Himachal Pradesh (1) and Chhattisgarh (1). IANS