12-year-old New York resident Neel Sethi, who plays the lead character in the upcoming Disney flick The Jungle Book, has his roots in Gujarat
India At Large staff
For many Indians, mere mention of this movie will bring back fond memories of the 1990s when one would wait in front of TV sets for the adorable long-haired boy Mowgli and his ilk to pep up one’s Sunday mornings. Who doesn’t remember the catchy title track, Jungle jungle baat chali hai, pata chala hai, chaddi pehen ke phool khila hai, phool khila ha?
The Jungle Book, based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories, is all set to scorch the silver screen on April 8 in India (it will release in the US a week later). The lead character Mowgli, an orphan raised by jungle animals, is being played by 12-year-old Neel Sethi of New York in the upcoming Disney flick of the same name.
Director Jon Favreau of Iron Man fame picked up Sethi, a bubbly 10-year-old then, in the summer of 2014 after having seen more than 2,000 children from across the globe, including the US, UK, New Zealand and Canada, in search for an actor who would play Mogwli.
Obviously, none fit the bill until Favreau met with the Indian-American boy in New York. “Casting is the most important element of any film and finding the right kid to play Mowgli was imperative,” Favreau was quoted as saying then. “Neel has tremendous talent and charisma. There is a lot riding on his little shoulders and I’m confident he can handle it.”
Although Sethi does not have any professional acting experience, his natural charisma and instincts stood out during auditions.
In The Jungle Book, the child actor – the only living being in a cast full of animated characters — found himself a part of Favreau’s re-imagined world of an enchanting Indian jungle, the story of which was first told via Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 timeless classic and then brought alive in the eponymous 1967 animated movie.
The live-action epic adventure will showcase Mowgli’s journey of self-discovery when he is forced to abandon his home in the forest and all the creatures he meets during his journey.
In a recent interview, Sethi says he is fond of Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra.
The Quantico actress has voiced the character of ‘Kaa’, a snake who is one of Mowgli’s mentors and friends, in the Hindi version of the film. “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,” Neel told PTI. “
Besides Priyanka, the 12-year-old youngster also looks up to Captain America star Chris Evans and Matthew Perry, known for his role as Chandler Bing on the hit sitcom Friends. “I really like Chris Evans, because he is Captain America and is a really nice guy. I like Mathew Perry because of Friends. I love the show.” Even though he is based in New York, Neel watches Hindi films and was impressed with the critically acclaimed Irrfan Khan starrer Talvar, which he found “very cool.”
The actor is open to do Bollywood films in the future as they have a “different acting style”. “I like everybody in Bollywood. There is a different acting style (in Bollywood). May be, in future, I would like to do a film here. It will be every exciting,” he says.
Asked what he liked best about his role in The Jungle Book, Neel says: “The stunts were really fun because I actually got to show my energy a lot more than usual, and that’s what Mowgli’s character is: Energetic, stubborn and really awesome – and funny,” Sethi says. “The stunts were one of my favourite highlights of filming,” Neel told Zap2it.
Pics courtesy: IMDB