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Elephant Boy

1937

Rudyard Kipling's short story "Toomai of the Elephants" comes to life in this exciting little movie from Sir Alexander Korda. The original material has been embroidered upon, but the changes from Kipling, who had died in 1936, actually give the slight tale more punch without destroying its integrity. Location shooting, personally granted by the Maharaja of Mysore on his private lands, gives a veracity to the film which no studio back lot could equal. In the title role, 13 year old, Sabu Dastagir in his film debut plays a young Elephant Boy who dreams of becoming a hunter like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather.


Elephant Boy is a 1937 British adventure film starring Sabu Dastagir in his film debut. Documentary filmmaker Robert J. Flaherty who produced some of the remarkable Indian footage and supervising director Zoltan Korda who completed the film won the Best Director Award at the Venice Film Festival. The film was made at the London Films studios at Denham, and in Mysore, India, and is based on the story "Toomai of the Elephants" from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book (1894).

Plot

Toomai (Sabu Dastagir), a young boy growing up in India, longs to become a hunter. In the meantime, he helps his mahout (elephant driver) father with Kala Nag, a large elephant that has been in their family for four generations.
Petersen (Walter Hudd) hires the father and Kala Nag, among others, for a large annual government roundup of wild elephants to be tamed and put to work. Amused by Toomai and learning that he has no one but his father to look after him, Petersen allows the boy to come too.
Strangely, no elephants have been seen in the region in a while, so Petersen has staked his reputation on a guess that they will be found further north. However, six weeks of hunting prove fruitless. He is ready to give up, but his right-hand man, Machua Appa (Allan Jeayes), persuades him to keep hunting for another month. When the other hired natives learn of Toomai's ambition, they mock him, telling him that he will become a hunter only when he sees the elephants dance (a myth).
One night, Toomai's father spots a tiger prowling near the camp and wakes Petersen. When the two go out to shoot the beast, Toomai's father is killed. Kala Nag's grief becomes so intense, he rampages through the camp, only stopping when Toomai calms him down.
Petersen decides to assign cruel Rham Lahl (Bruce Gordon (actor/director)) to Kala Nag, as Toomai is too young for the job. When Rham Lahl beats the elephant, however, Kala Nag injures his tormenter. The mahout insists that Kala Nag be destroyed, as is the law. Petersen manages to get him to change his mind and accept 100 rupees instead by threatening to have him removed from the safety of the camp.
Unaware of this reprieve, Toomai takes Kala Nag and runs away into the jungle. There, they stumble upon the missing wild elephants, and Toomai sees them dancing. He leads Petersen to them. The other natives are awed, and hail him as "Toomai of the Elephants". Machua Appa offers to train the boy to become a hunter, a plan Petersen approves.

Cast

  • Sabu Dastagir as Toomai
  • W. E. Holloway as Father
  • Walter Hudd as Petersen
  • Allan Jeayes as Machua Appa
  • Bruce Gordon (actor) as Rham Lahl
  • D. J. Williams (actor) as Hunter
  • Wilfrid Hyde-White as Commissioner
  • Iravatha as Kala Nag (uncredited)
  • Harry Lane as Bit Part (uncredited)

Bibliography

Michael Korda, Charmed Lives: The Fabulous World of the Korda Brothers (1980) 118-20.




Category:1937 films
Category:1930s drama films
Category:Adventure drama films
Category:Black-and-white films
Category:British films
Category:Denham Film Studios films
Category:English-language films
Category:Films about animals
Category:Films based on short fiction
Category:Films directed by Robert Flaherty
Category:Films directed by Zoltán Korda
Category:Films set in India
Category:The Jungle Book films
Category:London Films films
4.50
Alexander Korda

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