For cinegoers of another generation, ‘Junglee’ is reminiscent of the 1961 and 1971 classics (Junglee and Haathi Mere Saathi) of two yesteryear superstars. But Vidyut Jammwal is neither Shammi Kapoor nor Rajesh Khanna and Sameer Uddin is neither Shankar-Jaikishen nor Laxmikant-Pyarelal.
Having got the basic equation out of the way, let’s have a look at the current Junglee. Veterinarian Raj Nair (Vidyut Jammwal), comes to Chandrika elephant sanctuary in Odisha (shot mostly in Thailand) to meet his estranged father after 10 years. There he meets up with old friend’s warden Dev (Akshay Oberoi) and mahout Shankara (Pooja Sawant). Photo-journalist and activist Meera (Asha Bhat) arrives to interview Raj’s father.
Elephant poachers, led by Keshav (Atul Kulkarni), have set their sights on Didi and Bhola, who has the ‘bigger tusks ever recorded’.
The only saving grace is the short runtime of under two hours and the action sequences orchestrated by Chung Chi Li (who’s worked with Jackie Chan) and Parvez Shaikh.
There’s not much to work on by way of a screenplay and even the dialogues by Akshat Ghildial and Suman Adhikary are pedestrian (a couple of them eliciting guffaws from the critics). It’s a formula film complete with cliched villains mouthing cliched dialogues — “Of course it smells like fish: the ocean is nearby”. An Oriental from Taipei who’s come to buy the tuskers looks like he’s been hired from a local Chinese fast food joint. Debutantes Sawant and Bhat are tolerable — the latter never discarding her hot pants throughout the film. Theatre veteran Makarand Deshpande hams his way through some dialogues meant for the stage.
Jammwal’s muscular physique adds to the lure of the action sequences to the accompanying chorus of ‘Junglee, Junglee’.
Watch it if you are a fan of the Kalaripayattu form of martial arts or if you would like to be preached on the virtues of not using ivory. Else revisit the 1961 and 1971 classics for the umpteenth time — shouldn’t be a bad idea.