The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling is a popular book, adapted repeatedly into movies, and sanitised along the way. The original and the adaptations have been repeatedly criticised for racism, cultural appropriation and colonial attitudes, even as people enjoy the stories, which is why the BBC's new adaptation of The Jungle Book is remarkable. Writer and director Ayeesha Menon recontextualises the original story to the modern-day and removes the allegory of animals by retelling the story with people. And setting the whole thing in the "concrete jungle" of modern-day Mumbai. Recorded in India, with a local cast, Mowgli is now Mo, is a baby found on the train tracks, Sheer Khan is now Sheer Tiger, a local politician, and other locals have animal nicknames, and part of a local gang, the Wolves, who bring Mowgli up. If the original was cultural appropriation, this adaptation appropriates it back.
Broadcast in two hour-long episodes on BBC Radio 4, The Jungle Book is available streaming, for free, globally, right now.
Ayeesha Menon takes Rudyard Kipling's family classic and gives it a darker twist, re-imagining it in the concrete jungle of present-day India. A gangland coming-of-age fable.
Mowgli, the orphan boy at the centre of the story, is being brought up by the Wolves, a gang of petty criminals in a tenement block in Mumbai, and quickly learns how to survive in that world. But when the villainous politician, Tiger Khan, threatens Mowgli's life, two residents of the tenement block, "black panther" Bagheera and the "bear" Baloo, offer to help him escape and he embarks on a journey of self-discovery through the city, meeting "creatures" along the way who don't always have his best interests at heart.
Recorded in India.
Mo – Namit Das
Tiger Khan – Rajit Kapur
Mrs Gupta – Shernaz Patel
Mr Gupta- Zafar Karachiwala
Bugs – Sukant Goel
Yuva- Abir Abrar
Kala- Shikha Talsania
Rikita- Devika Shahani
Father Carvalho – Sohrab Ardeshir
Young Kala/Rani- Preetika Chawla
Young Mo – Omkar Kulkarni
Dimple – Trisha Kale
Bobby – Alka Sharma
Varun/Boy – Ajitesh Gupta
Amma – Prerna Chawla
Raksha- Shivani Tanksale
Rafiq & Naag- Tavish Bhattacharyya
Baldeo/Tabaqui/Purun Bhagat- Vivek Madan
Akhil – Nadir Khan
Music by Sacha Puttnam
Songs written and performed by Satchit Puranik
Written and directed by Ayeesha Menon
Producer: Nadir Khan
Executive Producer: John Scott Dryden
A Goldhawk production for BBC Radio 4