Wanted to make very emotional version of 'The Jungle Book': Andy Serkis

Durga Chakravarty

Singapore, Nov 8 (IANS) Exploring the darker side of the iconic childhood tale of "The Jungle Book" by Rudyard Kipling, filmmaker Andy Serkis, who brought alive the adventure fantasy on the silver screen as "Mowgli", said he wanted to make the film very emotional.

Serkis, who was here for Netflix's See What's Next Asia, announced on Thursday that the film will be globally releasing on the digital platform on December 7.

Talking about the film to Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer, Netflix, Serkis said: "I wanted to make it a very emotional version of this story... We have seen many versions of 'The Jungle Book', but I wanted to bring about this notion of being an outsider and of belonging.

"Kipling himself when he wrote the book... As a child, he spoke in Hindi and it was his first language and was sent to England against his will. He understood (this) from a personal place... this is what the core of the story is."

The film is based on the 19th century tale of a boy named Mowgli who grew up in the jungles of India with animals.

Even though the movie explores the darker side, Serkis stressed the movie is Mowgli-centric.

"There have been many interpretations but if you go back to the book, it is way darker than people's perception... This is a Mowgli-centric story. There's a right reason to call it so because it is this young boy's personal journey and it is an emotional journey. It's extraordinary where you see him grow up and become this legend of the jungle."

Based on Kipling's widely read classic "The Jungle Book", the film stars Indian-American child actor Rohan Chand, Matthew Rhys and Freida Pinto, along with voice and motion capture performances from Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Naomie Harris and Serkis.

The filmmaker, who has voiced the free-spirited Baloo -- the bear in the movie -- says for the title role of Mowgli, he had to scout for the right one from among 2,000 people.

Talking about Chand, he said: Rohan (Chand) was in the film called 'Lone Survivor' where he played a little Afghani kid and I thought there was something remarkable about him."

With Bale, Blanchett, Cumberbatch and Harris on board for the film, Serkis said it is the "largest ever ensemble cast" of A-list actors playing all these roles.

"This is the whole cast of animals. When we (the cast) first met and we decided to talk to each other... They were all interested in doing something new and outside of their comfort zone in a way. So we shot with them A-list cast and Rohan Chand (Mowgli) on a captured stage and caught all their performance... You bring yourself to the character."

Serkis said the film is not about singing and dancing, but about emotional connection.

The director, 53, said shooting the film was a "long process".

"We shot in two stages. First we shot with the A-list cast and then we shot on physical sets that we built. Then we went to South Africa which doubled for the Indian village sequence... Rohan always had someone to act with so, we had the A-list cast and then we had the performance capture acts on sets with him," he added.

About coming on board with Netflix, a thrilled Serkis said that he wanted to share the film with the global audience.

"It is truly a global approach and I am very happy and I always thought it was an international film and it didn't just have to be a success in the US box office," he added.

The movie will first get a limited theatrical release from November 29 in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and London. And will then be screened globally on Netflix from December 7.

(Durga Chakravarty is in Singapore on an invitation by Netflix. She can be contacted at durga.c@ians.in)

--IANS

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