Chuck Russell’s film against elephant atrocities is well intention ed and brave but delves too deep in unnecessary action
Elephant atrocities are rampant, evident from the reports we come across almost daily- be it human encounters, electrocution or simply killing them for tusks. Junglee in a very contemporary and relevant approach, tells a much needed story, in an attempt to bring about the animal perspective. Whatever it shows is good, but doesn’t suffice. The writing tells about the issue well, but rather than coming up with practical solutions, involves in re-establishing Vidyut Jammwal as this alpha male savior.
The film revolves around Raj (Vidyut Jammwal), a veterinary doctor who upon returning to his father’s elephant reserve fights an international poachers’ racket.
The story is genuine and very well intention ed aimed at sensitizing the society about the plight of elephants. The problem is grave, and the society must act against it, is what the film tells. Also, it focuses on asking the society to stop using ivory products, in turn putting an end to illegal businesses in the longer term.
What the film should absolutely be applauded for is the portrayal of elephants. Its a beautiful depiction of the tusked animals, where as much as you are bowled over by the grandeur, you are also charmed at the innocence of them. Russell has made sure you love the animals the way they live in their natural habitat and get engrossed in their tale to be able to connect with them. The very first sequence- and you have a smile on your face.
But just when you are invested in the elephants and waiting for magic to happen, you are served action, more action, and some more action. Action where it isn’t necessary puts you off, majorly in the second half. The angle to poachers is good and the evil projection also is effective, but you soon start wondering that to be able to act against any of such wrongdoings, you must physically become like Jammwal. Its on the lines of stupid and humbug what is shown in the second half where you keep looking for some sanity.
Early scenes between the kid and elephants and later on those involving Jamwal and elephants are extraordinarily presented- they are shot well and at the same time touch you. These scenes make the viewing worthwhile. You must also credit Russell for representation of various elements of Indian culture involing Kalaripayattu as well. The scene just before the interval is really effective and impactful.
Vidyut Jammwal does the needful very well. He fits in well in the hero image sketched by the writers and puts his best foot forward. Only thing, he doesn’t get as much scope to act as he gets to flaunt his body. Of course, his interactions with elephants are impressive. Also, the way he’s trained with the elephants makes you applaud listlessly.
Pooja Sawant as Mahauti Shankara in her debut does her job impressively. But with the limited scope in the writing, she can’t help it. On the other hand is a journalist played by Asha Bhat who only does a little more than shooting the videos. They look elegant and pretty though.
Atul Kulkarni is good. He’s underutilized though. He’s an actor of great caliber and at a time when the role is substantial, it isn’t written well. But yes, his face does give you trust in the plot.
Akshay Oberoi is reasonably good and does what is required from him. Makrand Deshpande is also reasonably good.
Sameer Uddin’s music does no good for the film actually. No songs carrying any recall value or doing positive for the plot. Score by Uddin and Tanuj Tikku is effective and powerful. At times when elephants are being tortured, the background score wrenches you. A very good work here.
Cinematography by Mark Irwin and Sachin Gadankush is beautifully admirable. Be it showing the calm jungles in extreme long shots, or getting close to elephants, during the scenes of Raj and Bhola (the elephant) together, the camera has done a fantastic job. Production design too is very soothing and moves point by point in sync with the camerawork and the plot.
Editing by Jayesh Shikharkhane and Vasudevan Kothandath is brilliant in parts, could be better in some. Action sequences are edited well though.
Junglee is a film where the hero is not Jammwal but elephants. The way they have been portrayed makes you want to recommend the film to others. Elephants are the biggest reason why this film should be watched. While it has potential to bring about societal changes, it must be lauded for its audacious guts. Animal-man films in Bollywood are rare. Films showing animals how Russell does are rarer. Wish it was not ruined in the second half. Watch it for the well timed issue.