Adapted from Rudyard Kipling’s book and directed by Fumio Kurokawa “The Jungle book” debuted on Indian television in the year 1993.

An era hanging on the doldrums of an imbalanced economy, communal violence, and filthy terrorism. And in the midst of this massive cauldron, in the monsoon of July 1993, our houses echoed with a delightful song written by the great Gulzar, the title song of the series “Jungle Jungle baat chali hai, pata chala hai.” It was a much-needed escape from the series of depressing events that engulfed our nation at that time. The song brought a sense of optimism and cheerfulness amongst the people specifically children, during a very complicated time in Indian history.

By that time many great Disney and Warner Bros shows were already running successfully, but none of them were able to instantly resonate with us, and profoundly influence a generation like The Jungle Book. It was a show that brought the families together and made Sunday afternoon the best time of the week. Soon Mowgli became a common household name and an integral part of our pop culture.

So what’s it’s about The Jungle Book specifically, that it was able to touch us in such a way, that no other show is able to recreate the magic till date?. What was it about this show, that made every child of our generation, wanting to run with the wolves, learn the language of every species, and climb on Bagheera’s back to jump over the cliff despite its secrets and dangers.

Well, It’s easy to guess it on the surface level, as it’s an entertaining show about a wild Indian boy who swings across the forest in his shorts along with his animal friends. For kids, that was more than enough reason to watch it but on a deeper level, it was a show filled with great philosophical knowledge, values and was no lesser than a self-help book. In its core, it’s a story about growing up, about maturing, learning more about the world, finding new friends, and more importantly finding yourself.

In other words, it was a great metaphor for our lives. Yes, the forest represented the concrete jungle we stay in. The animals represented our friends and families who care for us and protect us. The nemesis waiting in ambush represented the obstacles and problems we face, and the misfit protagonist represented “US”, lost into the unknown striving to survive. Just like Mowgli, we all face issues like growing up, we all feel like an odd one in the pack of wolves, and we all struggle to find our true identity always trying to adjust according to our environment in the vast civilized jungle.

Image courtesy @ Disney

The series did a fantastic job of showcasing the human values through these animals, and with great subtlety, provided a various practical solution for the dilemmas we face in our daily lives. It showed us the importance of finding our true-self, and how everyone has some unique talent and skill sets, which we need to figure out in order to persevere in this world. At the same time, it taught us the significance of family bonding, sacrifices we need to make, staying true to our words and commitments, respecting the law, dealing with the loss of loved ones and overcoming it. And most importantly, it taught us the virtues of co-operation over pridefulness, by testing our beliefs against other people and finding a common ground. It showed us that life is about walking according to the situation and opening ourselves to change. And it did it without coming across as preachy or forceful. Its beauty was in its delicacy and simplicity wrapped in an innocence of a young mind. Truly, so far no other show ever managed to achieve this and deeply touch our emotions, like The Jungle Book.

The anime also did a fabulous job of staying sincere to its original source material by staying dark and realistic as compared to early cotton-candy Disney version. But Disney was quick to realize its mistake and fixed it effectively in its latest live-action flick. Here is a great lesson for Indian animation shows as well. You don’t need unnecessary actions, cheesy gags, and larger than life protagonist in order to make a great show. As there was a show that shared the values of life and made an everlasting impact through an imperfect hero, who struggles like us, commits mistakes like us, learns like us, and most importantly grows like us, making it the greatest show of all time for our generation, at least in our hearts. 

So what part and qualities of Mowgli and The Jungle Book touched your life? Let’s go down in the memory lane of nostalgia and do share your valuable thoughts with everyone in the comment section below to spread joy and happiness.

Article by 

Nitin Navale

Animator, Animation Screenplay Writer, Blogger!