Why is The Jungle Book worrying Pahlaj Nihalani?

  • Lalita Panicker
  • Updated: Apr 08, 2016 08:46 IST
Neel Sethi plays Mowgli in Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book. (Photo: Disney)

This is one of the many attributes of censor board chief Pahlaj Nihalani that we were unaware of until now. In his free time when he is not snipping away at undesirable film footage, especially scenes that do not sit well with our glorious culture, he is a child psychologist. And in this capacity, he has discerned that the latest version of that beloved classic Jungle Book is not suitable viewing for children without parental supervision.

Mr Nihalani feels that the 3D effect of animals jumping out from the screen might traumatise children. Clearly, Mr Nihalani is a bit behind the times, children of today are used to sword and laser wielding Ninja warriors, blood curdling stunts by super heroes and other chilling phenomena in what are popular games for children.

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I wonder what there is in this Jungle Book that so worries Mr Nihalani. Could it be the lovable bear Baloo who nurtures Mowgli? Could Mr Nihalani be secretly worried that Mowgli’s alternative lifestyle could unduly influence the young? After all, you don’t want your progeny running around with wolves, even though the head wolf Akela is the moniker for the head of the boy scouts, as decreed by Baden-Powell who was clearly inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s great classic.

Read | If The Jungle Book can get a U/A, shame on India, says Mukesh Bhatt

Maybe he did not like the idea of Sher Khan in pursuit of the young boy, unsheathing his claws from time to time. Could this be a metaphor for the dangers that children face from predators in real life and will they make that connection while watching the film? The snake Kaa could be a cause for concern, he has a tendency to hypnotise before attempting to devour? Trussst in me, says the wily Kaa to a mesmerised Mowgli. You and I may not be able to decipher the dangers in this, but at each step in life, there is a snake in the grass lying in wait.

And Bagheera, the panther with a heart of gold? Could he be a snake oil salesman in disguise? Colonel Haathi and his merry band are clearly reflective of the colonial age in which Kipling thrived. So, it is quite possible that the erudite Mr Nihalani is trying to prevent not one but a host of worrying influences and role models from infiltrating into the lives of our children.

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But by the goodness of his heart, he has agreed to let children watch it along with their parents. So far, Mr Nihalani has confined himself to adult content, cuss words and violence. Now he has turned his considerable expertise to the world of children’s films. This sends out a salutary message. Any shyster film maker who plans to make say, Little Red Riding Hood and release it in India will find Mr Nihalani, scissors in hand, waiting to chop off the scenes in which the stalker wolf is attacking the little girl’s grandmother. In fact, in the Nihalaniesque world, Little Red Riding Hood would not have been allowed into the woods unaccompanied in the first place.

Read | A primer on the many versions of The Jungle Book

Or Snowhite and the Seven Dwarfs. Heaven forbid that a young woman should cohabit with seven unrelated men, even though they be vertically challenged. But to stay with Kipling, he must be turning in his grave at the thought this his book, arguably one of the greatest children’s books of all time has been deemed too frightening for children. So, if the makers of the Harry Potter series are planning any further releases around here, let them be assured that they will first have to get past the eagle eye of Mr Nihalani, that matchless interpreter of movies, equipped as he is with a unique internal moral-o-meter.

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