Don’t get too used to watching Neel Sethi as Mowgli in Disney’s The Jungle Book. The feral child who is brought up by wolves in a forest and goes on to defeat the tiger Shere Khan will be portrayed by another Indian-origin child actor boy in next year’s Jungle Book: Origins.
Rohan Chand will step into the role that has been previously played by Indians, Americans and Indians of American extraction over the years. Mowgli has been previously played by Sabu Dastagir in the 1942 movie and voiced by Bruce Reitherman in the 1967 animated version and by Haley Joel Osment in the 2003 animated sequel. In the direct-to-video films Mowgli’s Story and the sequel The Second Jungle Book, the wild child is played by Brandon Baker and Jamie Williams respectively.
Neel Sethi, the only actor to feature in The Jungle Book, has arrived in India to boost the movie’s box office chances ahead of its April 8 release. Based on the novels by Rudyard Kipling and the animated movie made by Disney in 1967, Jon Favreau’s version features Sethi, who was born in 2003 in New York City, along with computer-generated creatures, including Bagheera the panther, Baloo the bear, Shere Khan the tiger and Kaa the python.
The other adaptation by rival studio Warner Bros was originally scheduled for an October 2016 release. The live action movie, which will now emerge on October 6, 2017, is being directed by Andy Serkis, who also voices Baloo. Apart from Rohan Chand, the film features Christian Bale as Bagheera, Cate Blanchett as Kaa, Benedict Cumberbatch as Shere Khan and Frieda Pinto as Mowgli’s adoptive mother.
Chand, who was born in 2004, has already made a name for himself in the American entertainment world. Born to Indian parents in New York City, Chand was discovered by a casting director while playing baseball and cast in a small role in the comedy Jack and Jill (2011) as Adam Sandler’s son.
Then came another cameo in the popular television series Homeland. In the episode Crossfire from the first season, Chand plays Issa Nazir, the son of a terrorist, who forms a close bond with the protagonist Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis).
In the war movie Lone Survivor (2013), Chand plays the son of an Afghan man who dies trying to help an American Navy Seal. He also has a blink-and-miss role in the Helen Mirren-Om Puri drama The Hunderd-Foot Journey (2014). He plays the young version of the chef Hassan.
Chand’s breakout role was in the comedy Bad Words (2014), directed by and starring Jason Bateman as a National Spelling Bee contestant who finds himself pitted against Chand’s precocious Chaitanya Chopra.
The young talent is associated with another upcoming Hollywood movie with an Indian connection. Chand will voice the monkey Deepu from Bollywood Superstar Monkey, a musical adventure inspired loosely by the Ramayana and written by Gurinder Chadha and Paul Berges.
Sethi, in comparison, has only acted once before, in the short film Diwali, directed by Raj Trivedi. In the battle of the non-resident Indian child actors, may the best Mowgli win.