‘Main Sher Khan Hoon’ quipped my toddler, as she saw the heavily scarred Great Bengal Tiger seemingly jump across the screen towards her. That’s the scene at our home these days, on a daily basis.
Yes – we are fighting the same battle that almost every parent this age does (Beta Kuch Kha Lo!). And getting her to do the same over a video / movie of her choice is the easier way out. However, that’s not what this little one is all about… It’s about watching a childhood classic through two different lenses (almost 30 years apart) and figuring out all the meanings that the 2016 version leaves us with.
Why the Jungle Book:
5 words – Tiger, Mummy , Mowgli (the child hero), Animals and Story – the Jungle Book has it all.
Watching out for what kind of media our little one consumes is a full-time task, especially when you realise that she’s also processing it and has a knack of remembering it too. We have seen it happen when she saw a couple of scenes from Ragini MMS while we were channel surfing one day and raised it at dinner the next (Mummy, aunty ko ka hua tha?) Our choices with her are driven largely by nostalgia and how she would process what we show her. How is it working out – it’s too soon, but hopefully all will be great 🙂
First things first – the Tiger
The fascination with wildlife and specifically tigers is literal – the powerful animal was an important interest piece during a recent trip to the Corbett Tiger Reserve. The character evokes a sense of power, authority and destruction – all of which seem to appeal to her identifying with it.
Like it or not, Khan does what he pleases and gets away with it – something that connects with her toddler twos.
From My Lens:
Shere Khan is not just the classic antagonist – in fact, Kipling’s original version of the story did leave some feelers into why he behaves the way he does. And while Khan is still referred to as the lame one, the contempt towards the character from others in the tale is evenly matched by their healthy wariness and fear towards him.
Mommy Tales – Raksha:
A mom-child bond is the strongest relationship for a child to understand, especially a toddler, who’s still learning about the world around her. While she shares a strong bond with the rest of the family, it’s easy for her to understand why the snow white she-wolf Raksha calls Mowgli her own.
From My Lens:
Raksha as a character is strong in tone, working within strict emotional tangents – be it when she says ‘Tum Mere Ho’ (You’re Mine) to the man cub or when she bares her canines towards the larger tiger.
Though I don’t hold a PHD in human behaviour, there is no word to describe this mother-child connect, this bond. And in hindsight, it’s a test of a good narrative – be it through words or film. Capture it evocatively and you have a tale which will stand through; miss it and all will feel fake.
Mowgli – A child hero
A child with no bedtime, who does as he wants the entire day and gets away with it all, with hugs and kisses to spare. In her viewpoint, Mowgli is the perfect person to be…. and doesn’t he win against the big tiger at the end too?
From my lens:
A child protagonist is often the easiest form of bringing a connect with a tale; a child is perceived as a character often pure, evolving to what is needed from her or him near the end of the plot. Mowgli, the frog, holds a dear place personally as well, for being the lazed soul with a literal ‘wild side’. Huckleberry Finn from Twain is a close second.
“Why do you like it so much”, I had asked her, before deciding to get this fascination for the Book out of myself and off our daily playlist. She thought about it – a lot – before sharing why.
“Shere Khan, Lions, Tiger, Snake, Bagheera, Raksha mummy”, she counted one by one – and I understood why. It’s not just about a boy wonder who can do as he pleases. The confined cityscapes that she has grown up in make her long for something more. And the animals come literally out of the blue for her. While I may say ‘Pfft… CGI’, this is the first time that she says them so near to her.
A tale well-told:
While many who have seen it call the narrative faint in comparison to the memories they hold for the animated Disney version or even the anime Japanese spin (remember Mowgli from TV), it really depends on when and how you’re introduced to the Kipling saga.
For me, it was originally the anime tale on local state TV (DD), which led to my grandpa reading the book out loud. For my toddler, it’s this version that she dreams about. And while her connect may still all be about Shere Khan, it’s gotten her excited enough to sit through the next tale from Kipling – Rikki Tikki Tavi.
Which leaves me wondering – how do I explain why the snakes are so bad in the tale to her?