‘The Jungle Book’: Strong Box Office In India With A New Featurette For North American Audiences

The Jungle Book ate up the box office in India and won rave reviews in Australia and New Zealand this weekend, a full week ahead of the North American general release. The Hollywood remake of the classic Disney film opened April 7 and 8 in select markets, but North American audiences have to make due with a new featurette until April 15.

As reported in Forbes Magazine, The Jungle Booksmashed box office records to rack up India’s second best debut in history for a Hollywood film while garnering overwhelmingly positive reviews. The film earned 101 million rupees, or about $1.6 million USD on Friday’s opening day, repeating the performance the next day to post two day earnings of $3.55 million USD by the end of Saturday. The Jungle Book also enjoyed the second highest opening for all films released so far in India this year, just after the drama Airlift.

The Jungle Book was released on about 1,500 theaters throughout India. Both as a film and in terms of the original story, The Jungle Book strikes a special chord in India, where the tale is set. A piece in IBNLive recalls the hugely popular weekly cartoon TV show for children of the same name that aired in India during the 1980s and 1990s, giving the newest version of The Jungle Book a nostalgic link as well.

Disney India produced a Hindi-dubbed version of the film that was released along with the English version of The Jungle Book on the South Asian subcontinent. The Hindi voices include Bollywood stars Om Puri, Shefali Shah, Nana Patekar, and Priyanka Chopra in the key animal roles. Dubbed versions are also available in Tamil and Telugu for local audiences.

The Jungle Book began as a story written by British author Rudyard Kipling and published in 1894. The story was inspired by the Indian jungles he had known in his youth. The details of the jungle and its inhabitants are authentic, and the names of the characters are real Hindi words. Kipling was born in what is now Mumbai during British colonial times.

The 2016 reboot of The Jungle Book features an impressive hybrid of live action and CGI, staying true to the original story of a boy lost in the woods and raised by animals. The story focuses on the touching relationship between Mowgli, Baloo the Bear, and Bagheera the black panther, who knows that Mowgli will only be safe from the evil tiger, Shere Khan, if he can return him to the human world.

Earlier this week, Disney released a featurette on the voice casting that is key to a successful film like The Jungle Book, which features CGI characters so prominently. In the clip, director Jon Favreau, known for his previous work on Iron Man and Elf, among others, talks about how various casts members were suited for their roles in The Jungle Book. Billy Murray is Baloo the Bear, with Ben Kingsley as Bagheera the black panther. Christopher Walken voices exuberant King Louie, the giant orangutan, while Scarlett Johansson is the silky-voiced, mesmerizing snake, Kah. Lupita N’yongo plays Raksha, the wolf who adopts Mowgli and becomes his surrogate mother. Lupita told the Christian Science Monitor how she found inspiration for the character from her own life.

“I channeled my own mother, who is fierce and unwavering.”

Idris Elba adds a menacing note in the role of the tiger Shere Khan, the villain of The Jungle Book. Shere Khan has been subject to man’s cruelty, and he hates Mowgli the man-cub for who he is. Idris Elba comments in the clip.

“I think the most exciting thing about being a part of this project is that my daughter and my son were going to get to see a classic with their dad’s voice.”

Mowgli, the boy lost in the jungle, and the only live action character in the 3D/live action fantasy extravaganza, is played by Indian 12-year old American newcomer Neel Sethi. Sethi received universal praise for his naturalistic turn in the role. A review in the New Zealand Herald begins, “An all-star cast brings The Jungle Book reboot to life, but the new Mowgli is the standout.”

While the official world premiere was held in Los Angeles on April 4, The Jungle Book will see its official release in Canada, western Europe, and the United States on April 15.

[Image via Disney Films]