Director: Chuck Russell
Producer: Vineet Jain, Priti Shahani
Cast Vidyut Jammwal, Pooja Sawant, Asha Bhat, Atul Kulkarni, Akshay Oberoi
Ratings: 3.5 stars
Raj Nayar/ Viddyut Jamwal is a veterinary doctor who chats up parrots and other pets. His father runs an elephant sanctuary in Odisha but Raj has avoided going home for more than a decade, ever since his mother passed away.
This year, Raj makes an exception and visits home for his mother’s barsi unprepared for all that has to unfold.
The story has an interesting premise and what make it engaging are the characters and their interpersonal relationships. The father and son have a unique bonding but also many unresolved conflicts. They are both connected to nature but have a different way of submitting to it.
Forest officer Dev/Akshay Oberoi, is in love with the sanctuary assistant Shankara/ Pooja Sawant but never expresses it. Shankara is devoted to Raj but never displays it because she feels Raj is drawn to the city news reporter Meera/ Asha Bhat while Raj is only interested in the jungle and the animals. He chats with the elephants, understands their anguish, he plays with the snakes and comprehends their concerns.
The film focuses on environment conservation and has a direct message that if we stop purchasing ivory articles then cruelty to elephants will come to a natural end.
Before interval the film is both technically and visually spell binding. It has exotic locations, seductive cinematography; dare devil action and drama that blow your brains. The problem is the second half, when hero, Viddyut Jamwal is out to nab poacher/ Atul Kulkarni and in the process serves us four exceedingly long fight sequences that begin inside the jungle, proceeds to the temple, the police station ending in a desolate place in the climax.
The hero fights his oppressors with sticks/ swords, at times perched on top of an elephant and at times racing motorbike on slopes. After a point the stunts appear mechanical and meaningless but not Viddyut Jamwal. Viddyut gives his best in every scene and moment and it is an absolute delight to watch him display the Martial Arts with utmost skill and finesses.
It is not easy to shoot in the midst of the jungle with so many animals and the credit for this goes to the director. Mention also must be made of actors Makrand Deshpande and Atul Kulkarni who make effective supporting cast.
In 1961 we saw the release of Shammi Kapoor’s Junglee that had nothing to do with the wild life. In 1971 Rajesh Khanna did Haathi Mere Saathi that told a tale of friendship between man and animal and now in 2019 we have Junglee championing for the conservation of forests and animals, particularly elephants.
Junglee should be watched for the spectacular action, for American director Chuck Russel’s perspective on India and most important for Viddyut Jamwal who is first rate.
I rate Junglee with 3.5 stars out of which one is exclusively for Viddyut.