By Yajush Gupta
“I showed a karate move and I said, ..I don’t need no stunt double, and they really, they started laughing”
Neel Sethi on his Mowgli audition
Born on December 22, 2003 in New York, USA, Neel Sethi is a young,charismatic child actor who secured a breakout role as Mowgli of the classic tale of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Jungle book’. He also starred in Diwali (2013), a short comedy directed by Raj Trivedi. He is an Indian-American originally from the New York City.
He was selected for the role of Mowgli among 2000 others, who auditioned across the globe. Also, he is the only real human character in The Jungle Book with everyone else providing voices for animals. He landed a starring role in The Jungle Book, directed by Jon Favreau.
He comes from a Punjabi family and wanted to be a dentist as both his parents are dentist. At first, he might just seem to be a bit shy and an introvert, but the real deal is only revealed after a few minutes of interaction with the Indian-origin actor.
Just like any bright child of his age, the 12-year-old wants to be everything when he grows up.
“I love acting. But, I want to do everything! I want to do dentistry, I want to be an actor, and I want to be a sportsperson as well.”
While Neel spends most of his time in the states, he makes sure to have ‘ Golgappas’ whenever he comes to India and loves watching Bollywood films
“I have come to India before as my grandparents are here. I love India because this is my home. This is so different from usual New York from where I come. It’s so different and cool,…Golgappas I can have 27 in one go. I tried to beat my sister but that did not happen.”
So, how did Director Jon Favreau discovered the perfect Mowgli in Neel Sethi?
As The Jungle Book maintains its top spot at the box office for the second time in a row now and critics have found the actor Neel Sethi, an incredible talent on the Big screen, but it was a tough row to hoe for the child actor at first. Like every big Hollywood movie, it all came down to what’s called the “cattle call” in casting, more than 2,000 child actors showed up to audition for the aspiring role of Mowgli. Still, Sethi clearly stood out ,”He had a little spunk and some real swagger,” he said during a press tour for the film. Earlier, in 2014 when it was announced that Neel Sethi would play as Mowgli, Favreau told the Oh My Disney blog:
“Casting is the most important element of any film and finding the right kid to play Mowgli was imperative. Neel has tremendous talent and charisma. There is a lot riding on his little shoulders and I’m confident he can handle it”
The young 12-year-old is a huge fan of bollywood movies, and was really excited to show his grandparents, the jungle book.
“I love watching Indian films, but I haven’t seen a Bollywood film in a long time, because I have been pretty busy. But I have seen Irfan’s Talwar recently, and I thought that it was a really cool film..My grandparents thought it was really cool. You know for them, Mowgli was just like a superhero. To them, I guess he was what Spider man is to us”
And rightly so. Mowgli has been a hero for all of us. Especially for all 90s kids or older, the new Jungle Book movie must have been a flashback to those nostalgic memories of those Sunday sipping of horlicks right in front of our black and white television eagerly waiting for the animated Doordarshan TV series ‘Jungle Book Shonen Mowgli’ to begin. Along with the music,” Jungle Jungle baat chali hai pata chala hai…Arre chaddi pehen ke phool khila hai phool khila hai, phool kila hai” still can give us goosebumps.
Neel Sethi further had good things to say about director Favreau,as he helped and inspired him to do even better and be creative. Speaking to The Independent, Sethi said that Favreau played a big part in making those interactions seem natural.There were puppets that helped me, so it wasn’t just a tennis ball that I was trying to have emotion with. When an animal is supposed to be sad, the puppet would drop its head [Sethi makes sad face], and when it was happy, it would be happy [arms up, huge smile]. Jon got into the puppet at times. I got to interact with him which made it a lot easier.
The 12 year Neel also revealed his fondness for the Priyanka Chopra.“I love Priyanka Chopra because she plays ‘Kaa’ in the Hindi version. She is now in Hollywood too. I would love to act with her, and everybody in Bollywood. I think it’ll be a lot of fun.” he said in an interview.
For his Hollywood debut, Neel Sethi couldn’t have asked for a bigger role and neither any could have picked a harder role for his first act. despite this, he has been terrific in the movie. And with this enthuthiasm and energy, we can expect a lot from the young-12-year old, Neel Sethi ,the star of Disney’s live action film, The Jungle Book, based on Rudyard Kipling’s most beloved stories.
Yajush is a student of journalism. Twitter : @