The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Calls of the wild greet boy from the jungle
- Eager fans await Mowgli rerun

Eager shouts of “Mowgli”, “Sher Khan”, “Baloo” and “Kaa” greeted tricky questions on the subject of Jungle Book. The initially-shy group of around 25 children of ages, ranging from around three to 12, seemed to gel easily and fit right in as they traipsed around the Park Street bookstore, doing the elephant walk to Colonel Haathi’s March. But the parents, too, were equally excited about the subject, and determined to tow along with their kids to see the new Jungle Book 2.

A little reticent at first, the toddlers and tweens didn’t take too long to join in enthusiastically, echoing the calls of the wild with tiger growls, wolf howls, monkey moves and panther prowls. But at the event organised by Columbia Tristar and Oxford Bookstore to celebrate the release of the second set of antics that Rudyard Kipling’s eternal characters from the jungles of India get up to, Baloo the “blue bear” emerged the most popular.

The 11-year-old might not to have seen the first film, but lost no time in leading his troupe of earnest elephants for a walk. And the four-year-old might be too young to read a book yet, but he sure knew that he wanted his face painted like Bagheera. As if on cue, a three-year-old proudly held up his stick-figure drawing of Mowgli. And while the youngsters ardently, if somewhat inexpertly, performed an impromptu dance to Bare necessities, the parents tapped their feet and mouthed the words. “It’s appeal will never die,” says Rachna Bhagat, whose son was busy answering true-or-false questions like ‘Was Mowgli’s wolf-mother’s name Akela'’ “He loves Harry Potter, but he doesn’t think he’s too young for Jungle Book. The characters are just so loveable. In fact, he hasn’t seen the film nor really read the book, but knows all the characters.”

Jungle Book 2, up for release on May 18, has the same old characters, and two new ones, explains Ipsita Johari of Columbia Tristar. Shanti, the girl who was seen batting her wide eyelashes at Mowgli at the end of the last film, and Ranjan, Mowgli’s little brother from his adoptive family. Besides, there are other little additions to make it universally popular. Like making Mowgli’s new family Sikhs, yet having famous names lending their voices for the film, like Phil Collins, John Goodman and Haley Joel Osment, the star of Sixth Sense, as the boy from the jungle.

“The language of the original book is a little archaic for my seven-year-old daughter, but after seeing two of the films, I am sure that in a few years she will want to read the book,” says Rosina Ahmed. “Because the two mediums are very different. Just like she likes to read and see animated films of Winnie the Pooh. She thinks they are very different characters, but likes them both. And my three-year-old son already loves the characters.”

As for the trend of children’s films based on books which “usually causes a revival of the book”, anything that makes them want to read is a good thing, says Maina Bhagat of Oxford Bookstore, “because the power of the individual imagination cannot be duplicated”. And while waiting for her face paint to dry, seven-year-old Shireen picks up a copy of the Cartoon Network-based Powerpuff Girls book, and settles down to a read.

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