Mumbai: Roping in American filmmaker Chuck Russell to direct Bollywood film “Junglee” — on elephant poaching — was a gradual process as he has a knack for making movies around animals, says the film’s producer Priti Shahani of Junglee Pictures.
On what made the team choose Russell to direct the film, Shahani told IANS: “After we zeroed in on the film, the question about who is going to helm the film was there in mind. If we watch TV regularly, we know there are films like ‘The Scorpion King’, ‘The Mask’, ‘Eraser’.
“Of course, the common factor in these films is the director Chuck. Most importantly, these films have animals. Like Mask has a dog, Scorpion King has a camel. So the idea of approaching him gradually came into our mind.”
The story of the film revolves around the bonding between elephants and a veterinarian played by Vidyut Jammwal.
Why did they decide to make a film on an elephant?
“We wanted to make a film that is entertaining and relatable at the same time. We wanted to explore action because we know that action films travel in our country… This is the commercial part of our thought. The reasons why we chose a subject like elephant poaching are many,” said Shahani, who has earlier supported films like “Talvar”, “Bareilly Ki Barfi” and “Raazi”.
“Elephant is one of the very intelligent and emotional animals and one that takes up a lot of space. Elephant poaching is a huge topic that gained the notice of the UN, and it is a universal issue. We cannot forget the horrible image of burning ivory in Kenya. Our heart breaks thinking about it.
“In our country, the poaching of elephant continues here because there is a market for it. Making a documentary on the topic does not travel to the mass audience, but a feature film does. Our film celebrates the relationship between human and animals. So, we are attempting to entertain people, subliminally integrating the message that hopefully stay with the audience,” she added.
Shahani said the film does not try to be preachy at all, but she hopes it makes people conscious.
“Everytime you go to the jeweller and ask for real ivory, remember, an elephant is killed for that,” she said.
As the film is treated as a family entertainer, Shahani said: “I think the audience, especially children, will have a great time watching it because a film on an elephant is coming after a long time in Bollywood. The last celebrated film was ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’.”
“Junglee” is expected to release on October 19.