Every concerned parent hopes to provide wholesome entertainment for pre-school kids, which beco­mes quite a task in times when blood-splattered video games and obnoxious cartoon characters are the norm. Looking for content that is neither encouraging of violence nor of ill-will to others is the nemesis of parents. It was this quest for the fountain of clean content that landed me three decades in the past. Disney’s recently released computer graphics ai­ded box office grosser The Ju­ngle Book brings back memories of its 80s era namesake series aired on Doordarshan. It is still available on You­Tube and it was with great jubilation that I hit upon this much loved series for my son’s screen-diet.
The characters and the story are undoubtedly as much of a hit with kids today as they were three decades ago. But a school kid’s perspective differs vastly from an adult’s — in fact, perspective keeps changing with the progression of adulthood too and that’s the reason why re-readings of books always throw up new layers for your mind to chew upon. Ditto with television or movies—altered perspective throws up meanings you never knew existed within.
The Jungle Book Hindi series held many positive messages meant to seep through a kid’s pliant subconscious. Leadership, team work, sacrifice, love and respect for laws. In addition, the series highlighted human cruelty to animals and the degradation of natural habitat. By giving voices to the ‘others’, by trying to understand what might be going on in the mind of your rival or enemy, you can see through to the other side and understand what they might be going through. The world’s best bet for peace is for opposing sides to communicate, understand each other’s concerns and see the globe from the other side, too. The converse of this is true, too, tho­ugh. To render someone’s pli­ght inconsequent, you only have to de-humanise them. The more distant your ‘enemy’ or opponent, the less you know of them or their concerns, the less you see their plight and their worldview, the better it is for battle. And despite The Jungle Book’s positive messages, this barely perceptible de-animation peeped at me from the animated screen. Because the story is told from the point of view of Mowgli — a human-wolf, the wolves are heroes in this series. To be able to project them as heroes, it is important that their hunting not be depicted as evil — obviously, as it’s in line with the laws of the jungle. But to significantly remove any negative connotations from the scenes where wolves hunt other animals, the herbivores are rendered practically inanimate — mute creatures that meekly acquiesce without a cry of pain or a scream of fear.
I am acutely aware, of course, that this is a children’s series and the precise reason for it being ‘wholesome’ entertainment is its avoidance of graphic violence. But this is some fodder for adult contemplation: the technique of justifying your own actions and drawing attention away from the opponents’ plight is to present your opponent as either inconsequential or vile — while portraying your actions as natural or benevolent. More than anything though, it’s important to render your opponent voiceless, so nobody can know what they really think and feel. That is the trick to successfully presenting yourself as a hero to the world.
And to think such lessons can be found lying around in children’s cartoons.

(The writer loves to write)
Columnist: 
Zehra Naqvi
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