Actor-director Andy Serkis Thursday said it is impossible to tell the story of Mowgli, based on Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, without acknowledging its Indian roots.
The story about a man-cub raised by a pack of wolves in the forests of India has fascinated generations of children and has often been recreated in pop culture. The version by Serkis, known for his films such as Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes series, is a darker retelling of the classic.
"You can't tell the story in our world now without acknowledging that it is born in India and that Rudyard Kipling was from India. He was the child of the British empire and had a particular set of values. "You have to reinterpret those values and underpin the movie. So it very much deals with notion of belonging, tribe and cultures clashing," the director said at Netflix's See What's Next: Asia event here.
Starring Indian-American child actor Rohan Chand as Mowgli, the film will start streaming on Netflix from December 7. The film will also have exclusive limited theatrical engagements, starting November 29 in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and London.
Serkis said unlike the previous versions of Kipling's book, his take is far "more emotional". "I always wanted to make an emotional version of this story. We have seen many versions of The Jungle Book but this to me, was really about understanding the notions of being an outsider and of belonging.
"Kipling was a child when he wrote the book. Hindi was his first language and then he was sent to England against his will. So he understood from a personal space. That's really the core of the story is." The film is darker than the earlier versions of the book, Serkis reiterated.
"It is darker than what people had perceived... This is a Mowgli-centric story. There is a big reason why it is called 'Mowgli'. It is a young boy's personal journey and it's really an emotional journey. It's a rite of passage," he said. Serkis revealed that Chand was the third child actor to audition for the title part.
"He was the third person and he has actually been in the film called 'Lone Survivor'. I just thought there is something remarkable about him. When I met him on Skype, I told him 'This is all about connections. You are not going to be acting with nobody. You will be acting with the finest kind of talent."
Serkis, regarded a legend in acting especially in the Performance Capture area, believes that an actor needs to inhabit the character to do justice to it. "Performance Capturing is not just about actors connecting with their live-action characters but also about actors inhabiting their role of beasts and creatures. You are in the scene together and there is no differentiation...
"All you have to do is to believe in the character. It's believing yourself into that being and that's what you do as an actor. Use your imagination. You're not restricted or limited by the colour of your skin or height or size, shape or sex. It allows an actor to become anything," he added.