With Mowgli, Netflix Gives The Jungle Book A Much-Needed Update

Pop Culture

With Mowgli, Netflix Gives The Jungle Book A Much-Needed Update

Illustration: Arati Gujar


very great story has room for change. Shakespeare’s plays have been remade into films in fresh milieus as diverse as war-torn eastern Europe and the seedy Mumbai underworld, and Devdas has been resurrected in so many different imaginings by various Bollywood filmmakers, from Satyajit Ray to Anurag Kashyap, that he might as well be renamed Lazarus for the character’s ability to come back to life. Adaptability – the quality that makes a story relevant in different periods to different audiences – is the hallmark of a timeless tale. And while Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book is truly timeless, it urgently needed to adapt, if its story were to remain relevant.

The Netflix release Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle marks the latest attempt to update Kipling’s classic, this time by sophomore director Andy Serkis. The film unequivocally succeeds in standing apart from the adaptations that came before, but does it succeed in making the story of man-cub Mowgli matter, more than a 100 years after it was first told? More on that later. First, let’s declare this the darkest Jungle Book adaptation of all time and get that out of the way. It’s like Andy Serkis found the grittiness potion that Christopher Nolan was sipping on while rebooting Batman, and drank an entire cauldron before directing Mowgli.