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

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Image Source: ign.com

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)

Next Story

Oscar Nominees Furious Over Exclusion From Telecast

Rachael Stanley, the Executive Director of the Costume Designers Guild, lamented the loss of attention for her guild's industry siblings

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Hollywood filmmakers like Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo del Toro and leading craftspeople have condemned a decision by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to hand out four awards during commercial breaks in the hope of trimming the shows (Oscars) run time.

Nominees and their colleagues from the commercial-banished categories of cinematography, make-up and hairstyling, film editing, and live action shorts slammed the decision in interviews and via heated posts on social media, reports variety.com.

“I find it depressing that they are doing this. Hopefully it won’t be like the part of the show where they play clips from the Sci-Tech awards dinner. That always feels a bit sad, like they didn’t get invited to the real party,” said cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, a nominee this year for “Never Look Away”.

Deschanel is referencing the Academy’s annual Scientific and Technical Awards, held two weeks before the Oscars and typically hosted by a celebrity, which honours technical achievement in film.

Deschanel has been nominated six times stretching back to 1983’s “The Right Stuff”, but has yet to win.

Filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron, a multiple-nominee for producing, directing, writing and cinematography for “Roma”, criticised the Academy’s decision.

“In the history of cinema, masterpieces have existed without sound, without colour, without a story, without actors and without music. No one single film has ever existed without cinematography and without editing,” wrote Cuaron.

Three-time Oscar winner Emmanuel Lubezki called it “an unfortunate decision”.

Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro said he “would not presume to suggest what categories to cut during the Oscars show but cinematography and editing are at the very heart of our craft”.

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An Oscar Award.

“They are not inherited from a theatrical tradition or a literary tradition. They are cinema itself,” del Toro said.

Drake Doremus, indie director behind the late Anton Yelchin’s “Like Crazy”, even called for a “boycott”.

In a memo outlining the changes, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President John Bailey said representatives from categories that were shunted off to the commercial breaks volunteered to have their award presented off-camera.

However, the board members who represent those crafts don’t speak for the unions or guild membership.

The show’s director, Glenn Weiss, will determine what emotionally resonant moments from the four speeches make it to air later in the broadcast, according to an individual close to the production.

Also Read- Sri Lanka May Soon Introduce a GPS Tracking System to Foil Human, Drug Smuggling Via Sea

The show will cut any comment from presenters, as well as any recitation of the nominees, said the insider. While Bailey said the speeches will air in their entirety, that may not be the case on the big night as broadcasters reserve the right to cut them, the source said.

“This decision could be perceived as a separation and division of this creative process, thus minimising our fundamental creative contributions,” said Kees van Oostrum, President of American Society of Cinematographers, in a statement on Tuesday.

“To find out so close to the actual awards that you’ll be in the commercial break, it’s disappointing,” Lee Smith, last year’s film editing winner for “Dunkirk”, said.

Rachael Stanley, the Executive Director of the Costume Designers Guild, lamented the loss of attention for her guild’s industry siblings. (IANS)