Shunya’s “Jungle Book”


By Neeta Patwardhan

HOUSTON: As human conflict rages globally, Shunya’s musical – The Jungle Book comes at an apt time. Based on a stage adaption of the original work, the play examines a search for our identity as well as how perceived differences prevent peaceful co-existence.

While such subject matter is the bane of political think-tanks, The Jungle Book delivers its message in a most unusual manner, through Mowgli, a human raised by wolves. Mowgli neither fits in the jungle nor is welcome in the man village. His dilemma parallels our own, as immigrants trying to balance two seemingly different cultures. Mowgli’s intense predicament is painted across the stage in bold strokes by fifteen year old Nishant Kelkar who takes us playfully into the center of the drama. Our hearts reach out to him as he figures out where he belongs.


Getting into the skin of an animal is no easy task. Conveying its personality through human actions requires imagination. Jeff Dorman as Tabaqui brings the sinister jackal to life through movements that leave no dimension unturned. Inder Sandhu takes us into the mind of Mowgli’s protector Bageera, displaying nuances of a black panther’s behavior effortlessly. Anthony Hunter’s regal stride brings the invincible Sher Khan to life while his roar reverberates throughout. Alex Ozburn makes a brave Akela, leader of the wolves and surprises everyone with realistic acrobatics during attacks. Through her expressions, Tejal Master displays the fierce protectiveness of a mother in her roles as both Raksha and Messua.


Sunny Sinha’s endearing portrayal of the lovable Baloo brings heartwarming smiles as we journey along with the story’s most lovable character through his dances and unconditional love for Mowgli. Sara Kumar, Ka, has young viewers on tethers as the serpent slides across the stage yearning for something to swallow.

Medhavi Patwardhan draws us elegantly into the emotions of a villager at once frightened but also joyful.

Dressed as colorful clowns, young talent, Avi Vir, Meghna Saha, Avilash Bhongir and Bani Sandhu inject playful personalities to bear on the mischievous monkey pack.

A wolf pack with flair, adolescents, Alani Forouzan, Sanjana Bheri, Divya Shashital and Maiti Misra bring defiant energy to their roles.

Instead of parading common Halloween outfits, the animals appear in Kanchan Kabad’s fresh take on costumes, that reflect the character’s personality aptly.

Live music by Gauri Potdar, Neil Potdar and Sachin Shah forms a delightful backdrop, blending notes of fear and intensity into the sounds of the jungle.

Co-directors Sunny Sinha and Sara Kumar have put together a production that weaves several magical threads into a show that leaves its audience contemplating universal themes of fear, conflict resolution and commonality, long after viewers have left the theater.