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Monday, Nov 18, 2019

Netflix’s Mowgli: Rohan Chand on playing the iconic character, and his love for Jungle Jungle Baat Chali Hai

Rohan Chand, star of Netflix’s upcoming Jungle Book adaptation, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, speaks to Hindustan Times about playing the iconic character, his love for Jungle Jungle Baat Chali Hai.

hollywood Updated: Dec 06, 2018 12:37 IST
Rohan Naahar
Rohan Naahar
Hindustan Times
Rohan Chand promotes Netflix’s Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, in Mumbai.
Rohan Chand promotes Netflix’s Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, in Mumbai.

Rohan Chand was probably too young to understand the immensity of his role when he started work on Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle. But the film’s long and troubled production, during which Rohan entered his teens and the film switched studios, has given him enough time to fully appreciate what Mowgli, and The Jungle Book, means to fans.

“It was a really long shoot, but to be able to bring Mowgli back to his origins is great,” he said. Rohan was in Mumbai to attend the world premiere - the first of its kind held for a major Hollywood film in India - along with director Andy Serkis and co-stars Christian Bale and Freida Pinto. “Many people love it here,” he said, “and to be able to bring it back to the people who love it most is really great.”

Watch our interview with Rohan Chand here


Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle had been given an October release date by Warner Bros, but weeks after the release of its first trailer, it was abruptly announced that the studio had sold its distribution rights to Netflix. It has been more than four years since Rohan was cast in the film, a passion project for Serkis. He was among the first people Serkis hugged emotionally after the premiere screening.

The numerous delays turned out to be a blessing in disguise, Rohan said. “Just due to the storyline, they wanted to have me age a little bit,” he said. “I was 10 when I got involved with the project, but it has all been worth it.”

Rohan Chand as Mowgli in the Netflix film Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle.
Rohan Chand as Mowgli in the Netflix film Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle. ( Netflix )

In the time it took for the film’s intensive visual effects to be perfected - Serkis used state-of-the-art motion capture technology for non-human characters in the film - Rohan developed a broader understanding of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. Like millions of Indians, he, too, is a fan of the anime version of the story, which is immensely popular in the country, thanks in no small part to Gulzar and Vishal Bhardwaj’s theme song. The show lasted only 52 episodes, but its cultural impact can still be felt to this day.

The song was recreated for the Hindi version of Disney’s 2016 live-action film, directed by Jon Favreau. Mowgli in that film was played by Neel Sethi, and Rohan said that it was an active decision to differentiate his take on the character from previous versions. “Mowgli and I are very different people,” he said. “I grew up in New York and he grew up in the jungle, but I tried to find a common thread.”

He particularly likes Mowgli’s perseverance, and believes that’s what ‘differentiates him from the other versions.’ “He has so many obstacles thrown at him but he keeps pushing through them, and that’s what’s really great about him.”

Andy Serkis as Baloo in the Netflix film Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle.
Andy Serkis as Baloo in the Netflix film Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle. ( Netflix )

Serkis has said that his film is more in line with the dark tone of Kipling’s stories, which Disney actively tried to downplay in their classic 1967 animated film with, among other changes, the addition of a popular Sherman Brothers soundtrack. There are no songs in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, and Serkis’ ‘drill sergeant’ Baloo is more likely to give Mowgli a smack in the face than sing Bare Necessities to him.

“There are a lot of great messages in the movie,” Rohan said, “but the one that spoke to me was that Mowgli doesn’t fit in any world because he looks different and acts different.” A lot of kids are struggling to fit in and to look a certain way, he said, “but I think this (the film) tells them that they don’t have to do that.”

Rohan, along with stars Christian Bale (Mowgli’s mentor, Bagheera), Naomie Harris (his adoptive wolf mother, Nisha), Benedict Cumberbatch (the villainous Shere Khan), Freida Pinto (his adoptive human mother, Messua), Cate Blanchett (the hypnotic Kaa), and Serkis (Baloo), will be seen in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, on December 7, when it will be made available on Netflix. The film has been given a limited theatrical release in the UK and the US.

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The author tweets @RohanNaahar