NEW DELHI: Junglee Pictures has associated with Hollywood’s ace filmmaker Chuck Russell for an action-adventure film revolving around a man and an elephant.
The film will feature Vidyut Jammwal as a veterinarian-turned-activist-avenger, the film, titled ‘Junglee’, will be directed by Chuck.
The film is really gonna be a special one as almost half a century after Rajesh Khanna's ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’ in 1971 a film is coming on similar elements.
Chuck Russell had made his debut as a director with the hit film 'A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors', which at the time of its release in 1987 was the highest grossing independent film ever made.
The American writer-director has made several blockbuster films like by the Oscar-nominated Jim Carrey superhero comedy, The Mask, Arnold Schwarzenegger's action-thriller Eraser and The Scorpion King which was Dwayne `The Rock' Johnson's first lead role.
Chuck was also the executive producer on the critically acclaimed Michael Mann-directed neo-noir crime thriller 'Collateral (2004)'.
'Junglee' rolls in October and is targeting a summer 2018 release.
Priti Shahani, President of Junglee Pictures, said, "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'. 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 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 added, "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.”
She was 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.
Priti further stated 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. “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 asserted, “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 it’s on their elephants. It's a story that has grown from what is happening in the world around us."