There are countless Bollywood titles with no connection, whatsoever, to their plots. Junglee is a new addition to the record. The only seeming connection here is a brash endorsement of its production house (Junglee Pictures).
The primary reason I went to watch this film was because of the solid reputation of the production. They have churned out some of the best films in Bollywood (Talwar, Raazi, Badhaai Ho). As a matter of course, the expectations were quite high.
Also, it was overly-promoted how the direction of Chuck Russell and the involvement of action-director Chung Chi Li (Rush Hour, Shanghai Noon) is sure to stun the Indian audience with never-seen-before stuff. Well, all of this is a sham as the film is a big dud.
Starting of with the much touted never-seen-before action and fight choreography, any Indian stunt-director could have tossed out something cool and memorable than what we get to see in the film. Chuck and Chung may have attempted to break new grounds, but what we get is choppy editing in fight scenes, which remind you of Liam Neeson’s Taken films that feature some of the worst actions scenes of all time.
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Vidyut’s hand-to-hand fight skills and super flex physique is his greatest strength but the makers fail to capitalize it. Almost ninety percent of the fights are shot in close-ups with frenetic edits that completely kill the fun. All of it is so jarring that it makes you wonder what was the need to go for such stuff when the caliber of the lead was of such a high standard.
Vidyut has done way better action in all of his previous films. He was a big, bad-ass in Force and he totally nailed it in the Commando films. Although the Commando films fall in the trash category, they are watchable trash. You can, at least, enjoy those films for the cool action scenes. In fact, people go to the theaters to see Vidyut in his elements. Junglee leaves his best skills unexploited.
The film features Indian Martial Art Kalaripayattu for the first time but its rendition is so bad that it feels spooned. The first time we see Vidyut performing Kalaripayattu, it feels as drab as an unwanted tv infomercial.
All of this could have worked well if the story demanded it. Sadly, the story is so insipid and predictable you will regret giving your time and money to it. Vidyut plays a veterinary doctor (so much out-of-place) who comes home to his father’s heavenly elephant reserve after a long time, only to discover that nothing is the same and he has bigger things to fix.
The characters are wooden and too cartoonish to be taken seriously. We get multiple story arcs that feel rotten. Nothing explains the motivation behind the characters’ actions.
In a crucial scene, Vidyut’s character beats a guy to smithereens only to cry later for the same guy who gets killed by a third person. Everything fails to make sense as the movie progresses. It starts off by being very loud and preachy about how elephants need to be saved. But by interval, it gets derailed from its subject.
The film also fails to identify its audience. Is it meant for children? Or is it targeting the adults? It doesn’t falls into any category. While the adults can’t take the unintentionally laughable dialogues seriously, it shows some promise for the kids to have a good time at the movies. But then again it’s marred by uneven tone and wicked action.
Lately, this has become one of the major issues in commercial films. They are failing to classify their audience. For Junglee, it could have worked had the makers been ballsy enough to focus only on entertainment for kids. Nevertheless, it tried to jam in everything for everyone and completely bites the dust.
For those looking to watch a film on human-animal relationship or are seeking an ideal substitute, Disney’s Dumbo is the perfect choice.
By Mayank Nailwal