10-year-old Neel Sethi, who plays Mowgli in Jon Favreau's 'The Jungle Book' and is currently in Mumbai. In an interview with mid-day he talks about the movie, India and more...
One of our fondest childhood memories is set to unfold on the big screen and the fact that 'The Jungle Book' will release first in India has doubled the excitement.
Neel Sethi. Pic/Suresh Karkera
The movie based on a collection of short stories by India born English author Rudyard Kipling goes deep into the heart of Indian jungles and tells the tale of a young boy raised by a pack of wolves. Back in the day, not many things could match the public's love for the longhaired boy and his adventures with the formidable Shere Khan.
One can imagine then the onus that lies on the young boy who will portray the character on screen. Enter Neel Sethi, an endearing 10-year-old Indian-American actor who was picked from among 2000 child actors to play Mowgli. We caught up with the little one, who was in the city to promote the Jon Favreau film, for a quick chat.
Q. How did you bag this role?
A. I was actually part of an Indian dance class and my teacher happened to hear about this movie. So, I went for the auditions and it worked out pretty well.
Q. You were the chosen one, selected from among several aspirants...
A. 2000, to be precise. It's a cool feeling.
Neel Sethi in a still from Jon Favreau's 'The Jungle Book'
Q. Is this your first visit to India? How has it been so far?
A. I have actually come to India about six to seven times and I love it. I have heard many stories from my grandparents and parents who were so excited when they heard I had got this role. It's great being back in my homeland; India just makes me feel so calm.
Q. Let's talk about the movie. Do you know how historic your role is? And the element of nostalgia attached to the movie?
A. I know now. I'm going to be traveling to Los Angeles, Paris and other cities in a couple of other countries and the reaction that it has been getting is pretty crazy. I went to Rudyard Kipling's house with my parents; it's like being part of something really big and important.
Q. How did your friends react to your selection in the film?
A. They obviously thought it was pretty cool but no one knew it was this big. Back home, there's no star treatment really. I hope it stays like that.
Q. Do you miss school?
Q. How did you prepare for your role?
A. I had to take a pretty extensive training course in parkour. A lot of the jumping around that you see in the trailer, I did myself. I was literally jumping from one platform to another, except when it was super difficult; then they would bring in someone else.
Q. This is your first film and it boasts of a stellar cast including Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba, Ben Kingsley and Bill Murray. Did you get to meet them?
A. Oh yes! I actually played soccer with Bill Murray a lot and I dubbed with Ben Kingsley as well. I didn't get to meet Scarlett though.
Q. What's the plan from here?
A. I have got a couple of other things in the pipeline. I definitely want to act more, but I also want to be a dentist.
Watch 'The Jungle Book' trailer