Junglee movie cast: Vidyut Jammwal, Atul Kulkarni, Asha Bhat, Pooja Sawant, Akshay Oberoi, Makrand Deshpande
Junglee movie director: Chuck Russell
Junglee movie rating: 2 stars
Elephants always remember. They are gentle giants. They’re affectionate animals: that and other elephant lore comes at us, in bits and pieces, in Junglee, a latter-day jungle safari featuring bad guys, good guys, and a lot of lovable tuskers.
There is not 1 ounce of complexity from the movie, unspooling in such a linear fashion that even two-year-olds would not have any difficulty in understanding it. Maybe that is the demographic the film will appeal to, with its vivid colors and straight-forward story-line, along with a smiling hero who will take on an army of scowling bad men .
From the jungle, there’s an elephant sanctuary. It is meant to maintain Odisha, but other than some personalities wearing Ikat saris, and some vaguely Oriya-sounding lines slung around, and it looks like a cross between Kerala and Thailand. Who cares?
Clearly, it requires a non-Indian director to blithely provide us an unapologetic mash-up of ‘kalaripapyttu’ ( an ancient form of martial arts which originated in the southern Indian state), which is exactly what Raj, the very ripped vet on the planet ( Jammwal), clinics. Said vet pats exotic long-tailed birds and pet dogs in their mind, before heading out to the jungle, only in time to develop into the creatures’ savior.
Jammwal is a dab hand at action, and those pieces are watchable. He is graceful and fluid and believable because he kicks and chops his way in and out of trouble. Those are the money shots: who doesn’t love bad guys getting a taste of their medicine? And the places are very magnificent –green, and lush.
But the rest of it is overly comic-book simple. The protagonist is always on the phone into some canny hunter (Kulkarni) who claims he does not hunt for money, but also for the thrill of the kill. Kulkarni is kitted out in a sola topi, or something that looks a lot like it, and is surrounded by snarling henchmen with swords and firearms.
A female journalist wears shorts on a mission in the jungle. Another eye-catching girl, a female mahavat, is doe-eyed and fairly, and wears beautifully fitted blouses. It’s all very Jungle Book, and the dangerous pieces are kept carefully in check.
It’s the kind of film where our hero catches a venomous snake, also talks with it, and can be chatted to, in turn, by a tubby elephant god, that appears in a speaking part.