We've hit Peak Mowgli: Jungle Book hits screens this week, and again next year

That's right, Rudyard Kipling has been adapted for screens on eight occasions. Two on film, six as series. And somewhat ironically, not one of those eight is Indian.

We already know Jungle Book 2016 is fabulous. Because Pahlaj Nihalani, the chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification, inadvertently said so.

The board gave it a U/A certification. And said this, "The 3D effects are so scary that the animals seem to jump right at the audience." Thanks for the heads-up Nihalani.

(But if he thinks graphics of animals jumping will frighten away children, we can easily conclude that he hasn't met any.)

Here are 8 adaptations for screen:

(We're excluding Tarzan and related allegories, though they're all inspired by Rudyard Kipling's work. We're also skipping smaller adaptations, there's simply too many to count.)


Jungle Book, 1942

The first screen adaptation, Jungle Book (1942) was nominated for four Oscars.

And it's one of the only adaptations that retains Kipling's story - it's dark, replete with gore, and deals more with life-after-the-jungle for Mowgli than with life for him in it.

There are lots of life-lessons in here too - much of which has to do with the evils of capitalism and greed, and that man can never win against nature, yatta yatta. Films of the 1940's weren't known to be subtle.

But it was pathbreaking. Because through the droll times of WW2, this was the first cinematic experience allowing audiences to see exotic animals in fullest Technicolor. And this film had lots of exotic animals.

It's now a public domain film, which means you can watch animals being harmed for cinematic purposes for free.


The Junglebook, 1967

Disney took Jungle Book - an astute series of allegories about civilisation and humanity - and made it a light and frothy child's tale. With none of the gore and all of the heart.

It even had music. And what music.

Fun Fact: Walt Disney originally wanted What Are We Gonna Do to be performed by the Beatles. John Lennon refused. So Disney did the next best thing - he had four animated, vulture versions of the Beatles do it instead. And gave them floppy Beatles hairstyles for a fun touch.


Adventures of Maugli (1967)

This is the era of the Cold War, which means that where American animation ventures, the Russians can't be far behind.

Adventures of Mowgli is the Russian version. The animation is less cute, and the narrative is truer to the book than the Disney version.

For example: Kaa the snake, portrayed in Disney's 2016 and 1967 version as a villain, is Mowgli's mentor and guide. She is the Krishna to Mowgli's Arjun. Just as Kipling's Kaa was.

Most interestingly, Bagheera is a female panther in this adaptation. Not least because Bagheera, in Russian, is a female sounding name.

This, again, is freely available. But of little use unless you wish to learn Russian.


The Indian Japanese version, 1989

What you watched on Doordarshan was in fact Japanese anime, Jungle Book Shonen Mowgli: dubbed in Hindi. With Gulzar and Vishal Bharadwaj adding in the opening Chaddi Pehen Ke Phool Khila Hai theme song that made it what it was.

Watch the original, with no Hindi additions. It will certainly disorient you. If not make you question the entirety of your childhood.


Jungle Book Part 2, 2003

Disney finally made a sequel. And it wasn't worth the 36 year long wait.

It was cute, but appallingly unfunny. And it took 10 year old Mowgli's love for a 10-year-old village girl far too seriously to be palatable. He also called his adopted father Sir.

Remember that this was the same year as Finding Nemo. Disney seriously didn't stand a chance.


The Jungle Book, 2016

It has a stellar cast, in spite of having only one flesh-and-blood character in the film. Bill Murray plays Baloo, Ben Kingsley plays Bagheera, Lupita Nyong'o plays Raksha and Scarlett Johansson voices Kaa.

In terms of plot, it resembled the 1967 version more than any other we've seen.

All of the characters are CGI generated, and puppets were used during shooting of the film, interestingly shot in downtown LA.

We already know it's good (thanks Nihalani!). And the Hindi version has received a special shout out, by bringing together the team of the 1989 Hindi-dubbed-Japanese-version of Vishal Bharadwaj, Gulzar and Nana Patekar as Sher Khan's voice. (Irrfan Khan is Baloo, Om Puri is Bagheera and Priyanka Chopra is Kaa.)

But it's got stiff competition ahead.


The Jungle Book: Origins 2017

Next year, The Jungle Book will be back. And - though it might seem improbable - it has a cast this year's film could envy.

Christian Bale voices Bagheera, Cate Blanchett, Kaa. Benedict Cumberbatch voices Sher Khan. Frieda Pinto's in there too, but we aren't quite sure what she's playing yet.

Andy Serkis is directing it, which means we also can't guess whether it will be funny or gritty. We're quietly hoping it's the latter.

Sneha Vakharia

Sneha Vakharia @sneha_vakharia