The (new) Jungle Book movie isn't kind to its tiger | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 20, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, December 20, 2018

The (new) Jungle Book movie isn't kind to its tiger

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers.

I was beaming when the word “Mowgli” floated up. Partly because I didn't know the remake had been in the works and so I didn't have to wait for the release; partly because it had ties with The Jungle Book. But I wasn't doing the same when it ended.

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Don't proceed if you haven't watched the film already.

Bagheera and Baloo, like all other animals in the film, have human-like facial features. The CGI wasn't great — it is an embarrassing rendition of the animals' basic facial characteristics. It was as though Bagheera had been a man with the skin and features of a big cat, its humanness caged but visible. The internet is filled with how unhappy everyone is over the bad CGI, so I'm going to get to my point now.

As if the CGI brutality wasn't enough, the tiger, Shere Khan, is “killed” by the joint efforts of Mowgli and his wild pals. Although the movie was set in an India under the clutches of the colonial rule and tigers had been abundant in the forests back then, it doesn't really send out an important message as per the current scenario. The tiger population is dwindling with ignorance on the rise; they now inhabit about 7 percent of their historical range as modern theories imply. Those who hold power are told to do anything they can to take steps for their conservation. And at a time like this, the remake decides to convey a wrong message—Shere Khan must be killed because he is inviting disharmony in the jungle. Basically, he was being himself. I mean, isn't a tiger supposed to be menacing to the other creatures? Should it really be killed just because it feeds on other animals and livestock belonging to the villagers close to the jungle? 

The original version of The Jungle Book shows Shere Khan being intimidated by Mowgli so that he doesn't create disturbance in the jungle and frighten people living close by. He was led to a different area from where he wouldn't be able to bother Mowgli's friends. Yes, he definitely is the villain so it's Shere Khan versus the jungle, and I'm completely okay with the idea of depicting the tiger as a villain. But in a film, where issues like poaching and the invasion of humans which brings the animals closer to threats and risks are cruelly and convincingly presented, the idea of killing a tiger doesn't adjust well within the theme's bones.

In one scene, the juggernaut elephant with moss patches on its skin, bearing one and half of its trunks, kills the ruthless British hunter responsible for the loss of the halftrunk. In the very next scene, Mowgli cries like a wolf and the pack emerges; a mob of elephants emerges too. They ambush the tiger, beat it up and several minutes of growling, roaring, and chasing later, Shere Khan is no more.

I would love the remake if Shere Khan were portrayed only as the necessary fictional villain rather than an icon that could gather loathing (for tigers) from a portion of the audience (kids, for example) and his death wasn't an aftermath of hypocrisy. And of course, if the CGI weren't so embarrassing.

When the death of Shere Khan put me in a black mood, I thought writing about the wrongness of his death would be foolish since it's a film with a tiger as the villain. But still, I decided to carry on as it is set against the crucial backdrop of the endangerment of wild animals. Why should the tiger be left out?


Shah Tazrian Ashrafi wants the perils of his life to be like stormtroopers: always missing easy kill shots. Send him prayersat

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