It was announced that Vidyut Jammwal will be playing the lead role in Junglee, an action-adventure film revolving around a man and an elephant. The film has him playing veterinarian-turned-activist-avenger, the film, titled Junglee, will be directed by Chuck.
Now in a latest turn of events, the film will be directed by ace Hollywood filmmaker Chuck Russell who is known for films like Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors', 'The Mask', 'Eraser' and 'The Scorpion King'.
Chuck was also the executive producer on the critically acclaimed Michael Mann-directed neo-noir crime thriller 'Collateral (2004)'.
Priti Shahani (President) of Junglee Pictures says,"We reached out to Chuck saying that we had a story which is set locally but could appeal to him since it touches on an issue of global significance, with the United Nations lobbying to end poaching and the ivory movement. He read it, came down to India to meet and discuss the structure with Ritesh (Shah) who has written this heart-warming story and us, agreed to direct it and will be flying in next month to start prep"
Priti also highlighted the fact that Chuck was their go-to person because animals are a part of his narratives, be it the dog in The Mask or the camels in The Scorpion King. She further maintained, "Also, surprisingly, for an American director, he loves song and dance which will be an integral part of our commercial entertainer with a message"
The action thriller film unfolds in the Jungles of Kerala and will be shot in the state's elephant reserve. Vidyut Jammwal plays the character of Ashwath who is coming home from Mumbai for his mother's 10th death anniversary and reuniting with his elephant friend.
Priti adds, "The stunning location is a part of the storytelling and from the research perspective, the poaching trail in India starts from Kerala, passes through Orissa and Kolkata in West Bengal to head to Thailand," informs Priti, quick to add that the animals will not be expected to perform any tricks, rather the makers are working closely with animal handlers to understand how elephants behave in their natural habitat and in their interaction with humans. "The script is being written around them"
She further says that like the director Chuck, Vidyut Jammwal is the apt choice for this one-of-a-kind thriller which will not have the typical five action pieces but will focus on Kalaripayattu, a form of martial arts which originated in Kerala.
She quipped, "This kind of action is rarely seen in our films or those made in the West. Vidyut is a trained Kalaripayattu artiste so he's the perfect actor to tell our story"
With Chuck being on board for the film there is a question that it can turn into an English film to which Priti said, "We have written it primarily for a Hindi-speaking audience but Chuck's involvement reinstates that the story has the ability to connect with an international audience too and can be turned into a Hindi-English bilingual"
She further pointed the fact that what really inspired the story was that in the last 18 months there has been a concerted global movement towards protecting elephants.
She asserts, "One of the images that has stayed with us is of Kenya, on April 30, 2016, reducing 105 tons of elephant ivory, along with 1.35 tons of rhino horn--the remains of 6,500 elephants and 450 rhinos--to ash.This was followed by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta saying the fire was a statement to the world that ivory is worthless for them unless its on their elephants. It's a story that has grown from what is happening in the world around us."
Junglee will hit the shooting floors in October and is scheduled for a summer 2018 release.