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HindustanTimes Wed,22 Oct 2014

Indian-American Neel Sethi to play Mowgli in Disney's Jungle Book

Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times  Washington, July 16, 2014
First Published: 09:53 IST(16/7/2014) | Last Updated: 09:57 IST(16/7/2014)

Neel Sethi, a 10-year-old from New York will play Mowgli in Disney's upcoming film The Jungle Book, the studio announced on Tuesday.

He will be the only human in the film; all other characters - such as Bagheera, the leopard; Shere Khan, the tiger; Kaa, the python; and Baloo, the bear - will be animations.

"There is a lot riding on his little shoulders and I'm confident he can handle it," said director Jon Favreau, who made Elf and Iron Man, about his lead actor.

"Neel embodies the heart, humor, and daring of the character," said casting director Sarah Finn. "He's warm and accessible, yet also has an intelligence well beyond his years and impressed us all with his ability to hold his own in any situation. Even though he has no professional acting experience, his natural charisma and instincts jumped out at us."

The studio did not reveal anything else about him, his parents or his background. His name suggests he is of Indian descent.

Sethi was picked from an extensive worldwide search ranging from "New York to New Zealand, London to Canada, and all throughout the United States and India".

The Jungle Book is based on Rudyard Kipling's 1894 collection of stories about Mowgli, a human brought up by wolves in an Indian jungle.

The last Jungle Book film, also by Disney, was an animation, all characters, and had a double release in India, the second was a dubbed version in Hindi.

When shooting begins, Sethi will find himself acting alone before a green screen, which will be replaced by computer generated background during production.

In the dubbing theatre, however, he may be joined by Scarlett Johansson (Lost in translation) who will give voice to Kaa, Idris Elba ("Stringer" Bell of HBO's Wired) to Shere Khan, and Ben Kingsley (Gandhi) to Bagheera.

The film will be released in 3D on October 9, 2015.

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