A fortnight ago, when I received this mailer from the NGMA, I knew immediately what I would be doing on Friday evening. As the week started, I had my fingers tightly crossed that a major hurdle in the form of an important release at work would not come in the way of this film screening. Fortunately for me, things at work were more or less stable by Friday evening, allowing me to quickly hop over to the NGMA for a cuppa followed by this classic, based on Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book story “Toomai of the Elephants.” The film screenings at the NGMA have been drawing a larger audience the last few weeks, but the crowd for this screening amazed me. Amazed and pleased me, for it’s quite heartening to see so many people for a screening of a black and white film from 1937 on a Friday evening.
The film was introduced by a gentleman from the International Music and Arts Society and he spoke at length about the life and career of Sabu, the mahout’s son who plays the lead role. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the film, since most films of the era tend to amuse me, especially the forced English dialogues from Indians, but the film was very well made, right from the plot (which could hardly go wrong, being a Rudyard Kipling story) to the characterization and acting by the entire cast. The actual hunt of the elephants seems terribly cruel and criminal in the 21st century. However, I must admit that the sequence is rather impressive, not just from the point of view of the hunt, but also the actual filming of so many elephants even if they were trained and not wild elephants. It must have been quite a feat in 1937. As usual, I found myself covering and closing my eyes at certain tense moments, like when Toomai’s father wakes Petersen sahib after spotting a tiger near the goat’s pen and also when Kala Nag, the elephant charges the camp in grief after the death of his master, Toomai’s father. 😉
All in all – an interesting film and a wonderful way to spend Friday evening! An education of sorts, it is a must watch for fans of Rudyard Kipling and all kids who enjoy a good jungle story!