Jon Favreau’s “The Jungle Book” is a nostalgic marvel and a pure joy to watch on the big screen. The live-action adaptation are exceeds anyone’s expectation drawing inspiration from the animated 1967 classic and weaving in Favreau’s vision of the film. Neel Sethi plays as Mowgli, the young orphan boy who lives amongst the wild animals of the jungle. Unlike most cubs, Mowgli is fortunate enough to have three different father figures, all of whom have different parenting styles but share the same idea that all they want is what is best for him.
We were fortunate enough to sit down at press conference for The Jungle Book where Sir Ben Kingsley (voice of Bagheera) Giancarlo Esposito (voice of Akela), and Lupita Nyong’o (Raksha) spoke about what it was like to be parents both in real life and in fiction.
Nyong’o says she drew inspiration from her own mother for her performance. “She’s a very good mother,” said the actress, “I asked myself a lot of questions about what it would be like to lose one of my own, though I am not a mother myself. I do love children. When I was 12 I preferred to babysit my cousin than go outside and play. That part of me is very much alive. I gravitate towards children.
In the film, Mowgli essentially has three father figures, each one of them eaching him different things: one focused on teaching him being a leader, another focused on survival, while the other had him embrace his creative side. Favreau, Kingsley, and Esposito, who are all fathers themselves, spoke about their parenting styles and how they relate to their characters.
Kingsley says that you have to be very pragmatic as a parent and adapt to each child in each moment. “I think you have to give them a lot of attention and respond to the ever-changing complexities of a child’s needs and to address them moment by moment rather than have a certain set of rules,” said Kingsley.
Esposito said, “You first learn as a parent when a child comes out you want to form them, and do the right things for them, and then you look at them one day and you go, “oh they are already formed. They’ve got their own deal going.”
“There is room for the different styles of parenting and story telling,” said Favreau, “which is, what are the traditions, what are the myths of a culture for? They’re to try and help the younger generation not have to learn lessons painfully because you can learn them through visualization and through story.” He added, “Rule systems are an effort out of love to save the next generation from the pain the older generation goes through. To explain to them that stove is hot so that they don’t touch it. Of course, that’s a fantasy. They have to learn on their own as well. That’s the strength of a culture. To give them a context in which they can visualize their struggles as they persevere and come out the other side and they understand what it means and it gives them purpose.”
The director concluded with, “Although in this, we have three father figures and one mother figure, it’s really a deconstruction of what parents are and there are elements of all of them. They all represent different aspects of what goes on in our brain. Just like Dorothy and her friends going down the Yellow Brick Road, they all represent different aspects of what goes on in our brain. As a parent sometimes I am Bagheera, sometimes I am Baloo, sometimes Akela, sometimes Raksha.”
The Jungle Book is in theaters Friday, April 15th!