It is a truth universally acknowledged that every action by Central Board of Film Certification chairperson Pahlaj Nihalani is met with an equal and opposite reaction. And so it was that when the censor chief gave The Jungle Book a U/A rating, our collective outrage knew no bounds.
A beloved children’s story getting a U/A certificate? How could he!
Twitter — as is its wont — erupted. Was Nihalani offended by the fact that the animals were naked? Were there scenes of ‘animal passion’ that were not fit for tender eyes? In Twitterverse, the wit flowed long and merry.
#JungleBook is scary, says Pahlaj Nihalani. I can visualise Sher Khan laughing uncontrollably.
— Sanjay Jha (@JhaSanjay) April 8, 2016
Jungle Book given U/A by Indian censors. Probably because of the nude animals...
— R. Balakrishnan (@BalakrishnanR) April 7, 2016
Sorry guys. Jungle book got a U/A certificate. And they cut the Kaa and Baloo kiss. Also the Sher Khan and Col Hathi sex scene.
— Vir Das (@thevirdas) April 6, 2016
But, but, but — having seen The Jungle Book, we have to admit, in this one instance — Nihalani may have been right.
The Jungle Book is scary. The 3D animals jumping out at you are “startling”, as Nihalani said.
This isn’t the animated version you grew up watching on TV, with its happy-go-lucky tone and a benevolent jungle world that sang about chaddi-wearing phools blossoming.
This is a grown-up tale, with an appropriately frightening setting. There are at least two sequences (keeping it to the minimum) in the movie that might need parents (or some adult) to be in the theaters with children — one involving Shere Khan, and the other with the leader of the ‘bandarlog’, King Louie. The action is thrilling, the sound — ear-shatteringly loud, and the effects, extremely life-like.
Director Jon Favreau has himself said that his film isn’t all fun-and-games, and that it has a darker tone. In the US and Canada as well, it has received ‘Parental Guidance’ ratings. So Nihalani isn’t wrong in having asked for the U/A rating here.
Amid all the outrage, there have been some sane voices — comedian Atul Khatri was among those who pointed out that most parents would anyway not send their children under the age of 12 to a movie theatre alone. So the U/A rating for The Jungle Book — it only means that children will have to be accompanied by adults when watching the film in theatres — isn’t such a big deal.
The Jungle Book may be about a child (Mowgli), but it isn’t childish. And its U/A rating merely reflects that.