What If A Jungle Book Film Had An Asian Voice Cast
Updated: May 3, 2021
So even in the world of voice acting audiences want to see more representation. Notably for Moana and the new Lion king the films went out of their way to have an Oceanic and Black majority voice cast respectively. In fact even the original animated Mulan attempted to have Asian-American voice actors play the leads. But in the case of Jungle Book this did not happen. In fact we've had two live action Jungle Book films recently. Jungle Book (2016) and Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018) both had Indian American actors for Mowgli and an addition Indian actor (Mowgli's unnamed Father in Jungle Book 2016) and Frieda Pinto as Mowglis adoptive mother in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle. However the voice cast of both films had only one Asian voice actor each whilst the rest were not. Jungle Book had Half Indian Ben Kingsley as Bagheerah whilst Mowgli LOTJ had half Armenian/Iraqi Andy Serkis voicing Baloo as the only notable Asian voice actor. But what could a full Asian voice cast look like for the jungle book now? After all it seems representation in voice acting is important now especially with cases like Jenny Slate (who is of Ashkenazi Jewish American origin) had dropped out of the role as Missy Foreman-Greenwald (a Half Black Half White character) in the animated show Big Mouth stating "Black Characters in an animated show should be played by Black People"
If there was any British Asian actor that can match Ben Kinglsey's popularity. British Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed would have been the perfect choice to play the Black Panther Bagheerah. Riz Ahmed has been considered to be one of the most influential people in the modern acting world and is best recognised for both his British roles in projects like Shifty, Four Lions and Ill Manors alongside his popular international roles like the Night Of, Venom, Nightcrawler and Star Wars. He could easily be recognised for the role of Bagheerah by his voice and been big name for the audiences to watch for. Here's Riz Ahmed's monologue named: "I Miss You".
British Indian actor Rahul Kohli may not have been best known for his early roles in the UK television industry, he did appear in Eastenders as Shirley Carter's boss when she work in the chicken shop: McClunckeys. But he has become quite a popular actor across the pond. His best known roles include Doctor Ravi Chakrabarti in the series iZombie and Owen Sharma in the Netflix horror series Haunting at Bly Mano.r These roles definitely won him some fans and being tall dark and handsome at 6'4" definitely won him many admirers too. He has recently worked with DC superhero TV projects twice appearing as Jack Sphere in Supergirl and is now lending his voice for the role of Scarecrow in the Harley Quin animated series. While we are not sure on how his singing voice sounds yet. He could fit the big hearted Bear Baloo with his smooth voice just listen to this interview.
Kaa the hypnotic python that attempts to hypnotise and devour Mowgli. While in the original book, animated film and the animated series he is male. The two recent live action films had reimagined Kaa as female (likely merging aspects of Nagaina from the Jungle Book and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi stories) with Scarlett Johansson voicing the role in The Jungle Book (2016) and Cate Blanchett voicing Kaa in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018). If we had to find an asian actress for Kaa, we would 100% go with Naomi Scott, for one she does have quite an alluring and attractive voice, but also much like Kaa she can sing and potentially hypnotise us with her voice. Despite being British and from an Anglo-Indian background Naomi is more popular among Americans thanks to her roles in Lemonade Mouth which she would go on to bigger roles like the Pink Ranger in the Power Rangers film, one of Charlie's Angels and now of course Princess Jasmine in the Aladdin film. Whilst British fans didn't initially know who Naomi Scott was. Her fans did in America (literally Lemonade Mouth is what they all knew her for), this video will test her Britishness.
Fun fact Lobo actually means Wolf in Latin languages like Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. So it would be quite fitting for the alpha male of the wolf pack be played by Gerrard Lobo. Lobo is best known for his role in Aziz Ansari's web series Master of None where he appears as the muscular fitness friend. In a similar sense to Rahul Kohli, he is best known for his tall dark and muscular physique though it has been an issue for him to find audition due to most "Indian" roles are not looking for someone that is 6'3" and does bodybuilding in their spare time. Anytime he's tried to audition for a "big guy" role, they aren't usually looking for someone Indian. He has had a short recurring role as Adarsh in Orange is the New Black, Hopefully we can see more of him in future, maybe throwing down with Hemsworth in a film. Being the first American we have put on here lets have a listen to his voice.
If anyone could do the voice for Father Wolf. We can definitely vouch to have Naveen Andrews appear as the Papa Wolf to Mowgli. Naveen is a popular British Indian actor especially during the early 2000s era where he was known for roles such as Balraj in Bride and Prejudice and also Iraqi bad ass Sayyid in the US television series Lost. He has had a voice role in the video game Far Cry 4 as Sabal. While his career has quietened down a bit in recent years, we can definitely see him be potential voice role for the papa wolf. Lets here some of Naveen Andrew's voice acting in Ubisoft's Far Cry 4, albeit he is using a mix of British and Nepalese accents,, but he is no stranger to accents as seen with the Iraqi accent he had to use for the entirety of Lost as Sayyid Jarrah.
Raksha the name of a demon. But really just the fierce protective mama wolf of Mowgli's pack. Raksha was known for her ferociousness if her pack was threatened. We felt a good foil to Naveen Andrews would be Parminder Nagra herself. Parminder is best remembered for her lead role in the British football film Bend it like Beckham as Jess Bhambra. She then went on to act in many American projects since then. This includes the MCU specifically in Marvel's Agent of Shield as Senator Ellen Nadeer. One of her more recent British film roles was Miss Lovely in the Horrid Henry film.
Duaa Karim is best known for the role of Aqsa in the British Comedy Drama Man like Mobeen where she stars alongside Guz Khan as his younger sister. Duaa may have actually been a viable choice for the role of Kamala Khan aka Ms Marvel too. But at this moment she could feature as Lali, Mowgli's wolf sister. If a live action jungle book series was made much like the CBBC disney series that gave more characterisation to the lesser known characters from the films. It would be great to see some expansion on the Jungle Book universe.
Originally called Grey Brother in the books. But renamed as Bala in the CBBC TV Show. Bala is Mowgli's wolf brother. In the TV show he is very supportive of his brother mowgli but the two of them generally get competitive over little things like racing and how far one can throw/kick a little ball. For the voice Dillon Mitra can fit the role, one of his earliest roles was the Sikh lad in Riz Ahmed's Daytimer. His more recognisable role would be Adam the mixed raced orphan in the British period drama Indian Summers which also featured Nikesh Patel (may remember him from Man like Mobeen as well)
For the Royal Bengal Tiger we've had the Deep voice and MLE London accent of Idriss Elba in Jungle Book (2016) and also the Sinister and Posh RP accent of Benedict Cumberbatch in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018). But if we could get a South Asian for the voice of Shere Khan, we reckon British Bangladeshi actor Jan Uddin could pull it off. He's had roles in Eastenders, Shank, Lies We Tell, Cliff of Freedom, Marvel's Agents of Shield and is rumoured to have a role in Netflix's live action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop with John Cho and Mustafa Shakir. Jan Uddin usually has a fairly watered down English accent due to having lived in many cities and countries over his life. However one of his best vocal transformations is his role of K.D in Lies We Tell. As the main villain of the film, Jan Uddin appropriated a deep baritone voice and an accurate "Bradistani" accent. If he is willing to take a voice role and deepen his voice again. It would fit perfectly for the Man eating Royal Bengal Tiger.
Tabaqui is the sidekick of Shere-Khan. This is an instant of fiction being accurate to real life as Golden Indian Jackals do sometimes form a comradeship with Royal Bengal Tiger. Usually the relationship between Tigers and Jackal are the Jackals will alert the Tigers to potential prey. Tigers will hunt the prey and allow the Jackals to eat whatever scraps they leave behind. This is a commensalism type of relation. Though the Tigers do not actively feed the Jackals. This perfectly fits as Shere Khan abusive treatment to his minion Tabaqui in the CBBC series also reflects on how Tabaqui schemes and attempts to find ways to trick and deceive Mowgli into being separated from Baloo, Bagheerah and the Pack so Shere Khan can hunt with no obstructions. Sacha Dahwan is a British Indian actor best known for multiple roles however his best known villains are arrogant kung fu guy Davos in Marvel's Netflix series Ironfist and he is currently the Master in Doctor Who marking the first time a Male Asian actor is part of the main cast and the first non-white actor to play the Master. Due to his performance in Doctor Who many can agree that he would perfectely fit the role of the scheming Tabaqui very easily.
King Louie the Orangutan or if going by the latest version a Gigantopothecus was not in the original version of Jungle Book and therefore is an interestingly new choice when Disney create him for the older films. Known for being the playful king of the Bandar-Log (Monkeys). He has Mowgli kidnapped with the intentions of learning to be like a man. Or more specifically learn how to make fire presumable to scare Shere Khan and/or learn to use fire for many other innovative ways (like smelting ores for pure metals maybe). Either way whilst in the original Louie is more a scatting singing fun loving guy, the films make him a gigantic imposing threat. The reason being that is Orangutans are not native to South Asia but they are to Indonesia, so the extinct Goliath ancestor of the orangutan known as the Gigantopothecus was seen as more accurate (at least geographically) as that species fossils are found in India. Islah Abdur Rahman would be a great voice acting choice, aside from his love for music, Islah can scat, beat box and even do accapella styled music with his voice which lines up well with the Louis.
Another monkey leader created not from the books but this time from the 3D animated series. Masha is the mean and competitive leader of the Bandar Log. She is essential and female and more realistic King Louis but without all the singing. She can be fairly reasonable in comparison so it would be interesting to see how she and Louis would interact if they appeared together maybe even as rival leaders of two different Bandar-Log factions. This is where British Punjabi actress Rukku Nahar can come in, best known for her roles as Habiba in Eastenders and Selina in Wolfblood she can easily make her voice work for Masha. Also she was Meena in Cornershop Show where she loved to get on Malik's nerves all the time. So this could carry over through Masha getting on King Louis nerves as a little nod to Islah and Rukku's former acting role together. Sure Rukku doesn't mind picking on Islah again.
Jacala is one of the few predatory animals that don't get much love in the films. Though he get a few appearances in the 3D animated series. Jacala is a large Crocodile and much like Shere Khan, he has no problem eating Mowgli if he happens to be in his cross hairs. It seems fitting in a Jungle for Mowgli to at least run into other dangerous predators that he has to fight off aside from Shere Khan. One interesting episode which cements Jacala's respect for Mowgli was when his panicked children asked for Mowgli's help regarding his tooth ache. After promising not to harm Mowgli, the man cub removes the tooth causing Jacala pain and then even defends Mowgli when Shere Khan attacks staying true to his promise. British Pakistani actor Ace Bhatti is best known for his roles as Haresh Chandra in the Whoniverse series Sarah Jane Adventures, Soap villain Yusef Khan in Eastenders and Bomi Bulsara the father of Freddie Mercury in Bohemia Rhapsody. His experience in Eastenders as an antagonist could play into the role of Jacala pretty well and age wise fits the character's tone of voice when your consider Jacala is father too.
Nothing much to say.... no literally Kala initially didn't speak at all. So why is he mentioned. Well he does suddenly start to speak in when he reappears in Season 2 not sure why though. Well he is an original character in the 3D series. A villain known by Bagheerah as being a savage man eating Panther who apparently lives far from the main cast but returns in the jungle with the intent to eat Mowgli. We reckon that his history with Bagheerah could have been expanded on if they exchanged a few words. He wasn't mute as he was capable of roaring, snarling and growling at Bagheerah when they fought much to Mowgli's confusion as he's never met Kala before. Indian Australian actor Sachin Joab could provide a pretty memorable role for the Kala. Best known for his role in the Australian Soap Opera Neighbours, Upgrade, Hotel Mumbai and Lion. So giving Kala an Aussie accent would be a sure fire way for fans to remember the character better maybe even throw in some Australian slang for the fun of it. Strueth!!!
Phaona is a member of the Wolf Pack. Despite this is, he hates the Man Cub Mowgli and is always scheming, coming up with ideas to get him removed from the pack or better yet killed or eaten. In the books he is the father of Zhao leader of the Free people (rebellious wolves) but in the animated series he is the grandson of Akela. Naturally being a viscous wolf too, it would be interesting to see Jaz Deol possibly take up the role. He is best known for voice roles as Jayadeep Mir aka Henry Green in Assassin's Creed Syndicate, Rajah in Boy with the Topknot and currently as Kheerat Panesar in Eastenders. Hopefully Jaz's experience can expand into a more villainous role, his Eastenders role has hints of this when Kheerat threatens Ben Mitchell in retaliation for the theft of his car. Whilst we haven't seen how well Jaz can pull off the villainous side yet. Maybe a role as a big bad wolf could be the role for him.
Not much to say about Harjeet except that there's a reason you don't mess with Honey badgers. They maybe small but they are also incredibly aggressive and Harjeet was no different in the animated series. He is extremely territory and violently protective over his honey. Whilst he is more of 'minor villain' it would be interesting if he was incorporated somehow. For this role we felt Indian American actor Manish Dayal could be a good shout best known for roles such as Hassan in Hundred Foot Journey, the Inhuman speedster Vijay Nadeer in Marvel's Agents of Shield, Ryan Ray in Halt and Catch Fire, Devon Pravesh in The Resident and he is also doing a voice acting role in Fast and Furious: Spy Racers as the Indian teenage crime boss Shashi Dhar. So yeah he is definitely no stranger to voice acting or villainous roles.
Can you move as fast as a hummingbird? well that's Darzi for you. The sweet natured hyper active hummingbird. In the animated series she is one of Mowgli's better friends and never hesitates to do as he asks to save him or her friends. Being as speedy and small as she is. Many of the villains have a hard time trying to capture or keep up with her. Making her the perfect escape artist and messenger to report to Baloo, Bagheerah and the Wolf Pack whenever Mowgli and friends are in danger. We felt British Pakistani actress Maariah Hussain could play this role well. Whilst her best known acting role was in fact Alia Nawaz a fairly mean judgemental popular over achieving hijabi girl, we reckon she can easily adjust to a much more loveable sweet talker like Darzi the hummingbird.
Hathi the leader of the elephants and a very strict and stern one at that. While he didn't talk in the live action Jungle Book, he was very vocal in the Animated films and series. In the TV show he a way more gentle and caring despite his protective and strict demeanour. For the role of Hathi we felt British Sri Lankan actor Selva Rasalingam could be a good shout. He has a fairly decent tone of voice just bring it down to a baritone and he can really pull off the voice of the mighty colonel Hathi. Selva Rasalingam has appeared in many British TV shows from Luther as Craig Lane, Ranjit in Doctor Who episode "Power of Three" and in Eastenders as Umar Kazemi. He was the first Asian actor to play Jesus in "The Gospel" series and many American films too such as King Menehptre in The Mummy 2017, Silva's Mercenary in the James Bond film Skyfall and as a Persian Captain in The Prince of Persia. He also lends his voice for the Ubisoft game Watchdogs: Legion.
The wife of Hathi and mother of Heetah and Appu/Hathi Jr. She is generally one of the few elephants that Hathi will listen too. Because every guy should listen to their wife. Either way she is a lot more kind hearted and empathetic than her husband in the animated film whilst in the TV show her and Hathi are mutually kind hearted though she does have a sweet motherly heart toward many of the smaller animals. If there was Asian lady that could tell off the a big guy like Selva, us Eastenders fans would probably say Zainab Masood. Nina Wadia who played Zainab Masood is also known for her roles in Aladdin, Finding Fatimah and she was in the Corner Shop movie (she makes a great guard for any front door when you don't return her containers). So we feel she both as the bite and sweetness for Kachini/Gajjini. Now good luck trying to gain entry to her house without her containers.
Heetah is the daughter of Hathi and Gajjini. Also the older sister of Appu. She does not exist in the Jungle Book film but is one of Mowgli's better friends in the TV show. She is very much like her mother caring and understanding. She doesn't get angry easily and cares a lot about her older brother. We felt Canadian actress Melinda Shankar could pull off the role as Heetah. She is of Indo-Guyanese origin and is best known in Canada for her lead role Indira "Indi" Mehta in How to Be Indie as well as her role in the School Drama series Degrassi as Alli Bhandari. So it would be great to have her on board for a voice role like this.
Appu in the Jungle Book TV show is better known as Hathi Jr by the casual fans from the Animated series. He is the son of Hathi and Gajjini. He tends to be good friends with Mowgli and enjoys the man-cubs company. He is expected to be the leader of the Elephant herd after his father passes. Much like his father, Hathi Jr is also very quick to get angry inheriting his father's temper but all in all he is brave and selfless as one would expect from a big hearted elephant even if he is still young. For the voice of Hathi Jr, we would like to we Canadian actor Raymond Ablacke take on the role. He is also of Indo-Guyanese orign much like Melinda Shankar who in fact played his younger sister in Degrassi. Raymond Ablacke portrays Savtaj Bhandari in Degrassi, Alli's older brother. He was also in a few episodes of Orphan Black as Raj.
The fearless, reckless hyperactive Mongoose. We have Rikki-Tikki Tavi! Another on of Mowgli's friends form the animated series though the character actually originates from another book by Rudyard Kipling but it is not out of question for the mongoose to exist in the Jungle Book series. During one of Mowgli's more stubborn and reckless moments, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi has to protect Mowgli from a king Cobra. As Mongooses (Mongeese? just looked it up Plural for Mongoose is Mongooses not Mongeese) are immune to Cobra Venom it makes sense for Rikki to be the one to save Mowgli form a Cobra in fact Mongooses eat Snakes as part of their main diet so this would be a great character for Mowgli to have as a friend especially a pint sized powerhouse you'd take on bigger opponents like Tabaqui, Kaa and even Shere-Khan. For the role of this character, I can't imagine anyone other than Aziz Ansari embody the role, Aziz Ansari is best known for his leading role in as Dev in Master of None but he also played a similar voice role in Ice Age Continential Drift as Squint the blood thirsty hyperactive Rabbit (well actually a Palaeolagus meaning ancient Hare). Now just imagine that as a heroic Mongoose and you can see why Aziz would be perfect. He also did a voice acting role in Ben 10 Omniverse as the villain Billy Billions too.
Chil the majestic and somewhat gigantic Brahminy Kite. We say somewhat Gigantic because he is largest enough to stand eye to eye with Mowgli and strong enough to carry him and a wolf cub away. Chil is somewhat a loner but also has the heart to rescue Mowgli and Lali from a Cobra. He occassionally has helped the main character being the one to spot danger and warn them, or send help when someone needs it. Much like King Louis in the 2016 film, there's not much reason given for his immense size in the TV Show other than the fact he is considered a high and mighty character. To have a character for Chil, we felt British Pakistani actor Jay Ali could be a good shout. He is best known for his role as Agent Rahul "Ray" Nadeem in the Marvel Netflix series Daredevil, a role that propelled him into stardom among TV fans. It would be an honour to have him play Chil the Kite.
Nothing much to really say about Oo and Boo. They are two elderly Tortoises with several grandkids. Aside form Jacala the crocodile giving them trouble there is not much going on with them aside from being stereotypically old and peaceful. If there was any asian actors to play this elderly couple. We'd go with British Indian actors Indira Joshi and Madhav Sharma who played husband and wife in Eastenders as Mariam and Arshad Ahmed. We can imagine a more relaxing voice role would be decent for Joshi and Sharma especially since they seem to still be acting despite their age.
Sahi or Ikki depending on which version of jungle book your watching is a sassy, mean porcupine with a. merchant for being a bit of wind up merchant. She loves to gossip and spread rumours or at least exaggerate the truth for her own entertainment but at the end of the day she is not evil at heart. Not many would wanna mess with her though having a pines as sharp as her tongue is probably the main reason she gets away with her little gossiping. If we had to have a voice actress for Ikki. Nicki Minaj would be a decent choice. Minaj is actually of Asian descent being one quarter Indo-Trinidadian on bybher father Roberty Miraj, she even spoke about being proud of her Black and Asian Caribbean heritage so this would be a great opportunity for her to rep her Indian heritage and also she did play a similar queen bee voice role in the animated film Ice Age Continential drift as Steffie one of the popular Mammoths that bullies Peaches.
Thuu is a black cobra who guard the treasure in the Cold Lair. His role as the treasure guardian was actually replaced by Kaa in the 1994 live action film. In the same film King Louie is the one that owns the treasures and has Kaa guard them for himself whilst in the books and in the shows Thuu just lives there and kills anyone that dares to enter. In the books and the 1994 film the treasure guardian is said to be elderly, albino and to top it off, his venom dried up with age (which actually doesn't happen to snakes in real life), but we feel based on the animated versions he could be portrayed as a younger. There's not a lot to go on but a storyline of Mowgli and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi taking on Thuu (in the books Rikki fights Nag the Cobra, leading to Nag's wife Nagaina vowing vengeance) for King Louie's treasure could be something to throw in for an episode or just for a Jungle Book sequel. Either way we would like to see Jassa Alhuwalia try this role, despite his appearance he is actually of Asian descent having Punjabi heritage on his dads side if his name didn't already give it away. Most British fans will recognise Jassa for his role as Rocky in the British tv show Some Girls and Dimitri in Peaky Blinders.
A lone Wolf that mowgli and the wolf pack encounters in the Kipling short story Red Dog. At this point in time, Mowgli is a 16. Won-Tolla lost his pack, mate and cubs to a group of viscous Red Dogs called Dholes. He warns the pack about the impending danger of these Dholes, which Mowgli and the wolf pack prepare for. Theres not much to the story except that Akela, the Alpha dies fighting off the dholes but ultimately overwhelmed by the numbers and Won-Tolla avenges his family by killing the leader of the Dholes. He could be reinterpreted as an anarchist and plants the seeds to allow animals to fight each other. Such as leading the Dholes to Mowgli's wolf pack and warning them about the Dholes in hopes to avenge his family during the conflict between the Wolves and Dholes (similar to Iko Uwais's character in Triple Threat). Either way we can see British Canadian actor Avan Jogia who is half Indian on his father's side, to play the role of a lone wolf. If his role as Danny Desai indicates anything is he can definitely pull off a mysterious character of sorts.