U/A for ‘The Jungle Book’ leaves Indian audience amused

New Delhi, April 7 (IANS) India’s censor board chief Pahlaj Nihalani’s decision to certify Jon Favreau’s “The Jungle Book” as a “scary” movie fit for children to watch only under parental supervision, has led the audience to question whether it’s because the “animals are naked”, while celebrities are left wondering about the criteria of the certification.

“Iron Man” fame director Jon Favreau took a basic structure of Rudyard Kipling’s timeless classic and charged it up with the power of the 1967 animation film to bring forth an advanced version of the story backed with technology.

It features Indian-American child artist Neel Sethi, and will make its way onto the screens in India on Friday – a week before its release in the US, where too the movie has been given a PG (Parental Guidance) rating.

“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,” actor-comedian Vir Das tweeted.

In the same vein, “Wazir” actress Aditi Rao Hydari said: “There are lot more frightening things in other movies than just special effects. I am not very sure about what the criteria of the certification is. I think there are so many films that should not be watched by lot of people. We really need a better certification system.”

A Twitter user was amused by the decision as she shared: “What happened to Pahlaj Nihalani? U/A certificate to ‘Jungle Book’! Thank god it’s not A. Non of the chimps, monkeys, hyenas wearing clothes”; while another shared that “Pahlaj Nihalani has given ‘Jungle Book’ a U/A certificate. So many naked animals in the jungle must have really upset him.”

There were others too.

“So kids, target audience for the movie, cannot watch #JungleBook because #PahlajNihalani thinks it’s ‘too scary’,” posted one, while another shared: “Pahlaj Nihalani never fails to amuse me, he is better than any stand up comedian across the globe. Now Jungle Book us U/A because its scary”.

In a justification of his decision, Nihalani, who has faced the ire of many for his strict censor regulations, told a popular daily: “Please don’t go by the reputation of the book. See the film and then decide on the suitability of the content for kids. The 3D effects are so scary that the animals seem to jump right at the audience.”

Favreau had earlier told IANS that while the story is woven with a splash of dark tones, he has ensured that it is child-friendly.

He said: “I am a dad of three kids and I want to make sure that it is something that my kids would be comfortable in seeing. But that doesn’t mean you can’t scare them sometimes a little bit. You know what I mean …the bad guy has to bad”.

A source from the industry shared that while the certification did not come as a shock, the CBFC chief’s reasoning was startling.

“Anyway kids can’t go and watch the film alone. They will be accompanied by their parents, so the certification is fine. In fact, US has also given it a PG rating,” the source said.

Many came to Nihalani’s defence.

Stand-up comedian Atul Khatri shared: “Are you sending your 12-year-old alone to watch movies in theatres in India? No na. Then STFU #JungleBook”.

A Twitter user made the point clear with a string of tweets saying: “You guys have the strangest double standards I’ve ever seen. ‘The Jungle Book’ also has a PG rating in the US, just so you know. Suggesting parental guidance for a film that may scare younger viewers is quite fair, IMO (if we *must* have a ratings/censorship body i.e.)

“U/A doesn’t mean kids aren’t allowed in theatres; it just means they need to come with parents. Which they do. Not that rules are enforced. I realise it’s fashionable to bash Pahlaj Nihalani, and, yes, it is justified 99.9% of the time, but let’s not stop being judicious.”

Another social media user tweeted: “All those mocking #PahlajNihalani’s statement about @TheJungleBook see what US and Canadian ratings system say”.

The film is supported by a stellar cast including Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson and Christopher Walken. And its Hindi dubbed version for the Indian audience, is voiced by a string of popular Bollywood stars, including names like Priyanka Chopra and Irrfan Khan.

(Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at sugandha.r@ians.in)

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