When the creative crew couldn't devise a way to convince Mowgli to go to the Man Village after spending the entire film avoiding it, Walt Disney looked for inspirations in the endings to both volumes of The Jungle Book and saw that Mowgli did eventually fall in love with a girl from a village and served as one of the reasons why Mowgli decided to stay with his own kind forever. Then Walt suggested having a girl lure Mowgli to the village and the idea stuck.
Shanti is best described as a sweet, introverted, loyal, rational and hard-working young girl who lives an organized life and has great respect for rules, which she considers essential to a peaceful and prosperous life. She has a very obvious crush on Mowgli (a feeling he reciprocates) and finds him charming, despite disapproving of his occasional rebelliousness. For a long time, Shanti was terrified of the jungle in contrast to Mowgli's obsession with it and could not bear the thought of all the potential dangers that might be there, preferring to stay in a safe environment at all times instead. However, after bravely forcing herself out of her comfort zone to help Mowgli, Shanti eventually conquered her fears and began to see that the jungle is not as menacing as she thought.
Shanti and Mowgli both have different opinions on the jungle, usually leading to friendly or sometimes serious arguments. In many ways, Shanti's mindset is the opposite of Mowgli's. While Mowgli is rebellious, wild, naïve and carefree, Shanti is compliant, civilized, mature and responsible. Despite that, Mowgli has had a rather positive influence on Shanti and vice versa. Mowgli has inspired Shanti to become braver while Shanti has inspired Mowgli to embrace responsibility and work ethics. The two learning from each other proved to be a key factor in developing their relationship.
Despite Shanti's serious nature, she is far from being devoid of child-like traits and often displays her playful side. Especially around Mowgli, who is capable of charming her into loosening up and letting out her fun-loving side, and occasionally she enjoys flirting with him, usually by blinking her eyes at him to remind him of the day they first met and knowing Mowgli has a soft spot for her beautiful eyes. Despite her flirtatious attitude, Shanti tends to deny her true feelings for Mowgli when she is around other people, fearing it would make her a subject of mockery.
An introvert, Shanti generally prefers to keep her thoughts to herself, though she is comfortable with expressing her feelings to someone she can trust. She is also somewhat self-conscious about her appearance and actions. As such, she is not as sociable as most of her peers and only expresses her deepest fantasies about her adulthood when she is, or thinks she is, alone. Nevertheless, Shanti is impressed by Mowgli's popularity among the village children and gladly participates in entertaining activities set up by Mowgli.
Even though there is no relation, Shanti treats Mowgli's adoptive brother Ranjan as if he were her own, most likely because of her mother's and Messua's close friendship. She takes some of her time to teach Ranjan how to behave and stay safe and tries to convince him that she's a better role model than Mowgli.
Shanti is a slender prepubescent girl with dusky skin, brown eyes, long sleek black hair, red bindi on her forehead, and gold hoop earrings.
In The Jungle Book, Shanti wore a pink dress with a red waist belt and her hair was tied into pigtails by pink bows.
In The Jungle Book 2, her appearance was updated. This time historically accurate to how Indian girls at her age commonly dressed in the late 19th century. She retains her bindi, earrings and is still barefoot but wears an indigo-colored lehenga skirt, a cream yellow choli that exposes her midriff and her hair has a conventional Indian style, braided in a ponytail.
Shanti plays a minor role as an unnamed peasant girl near the end of The Jungle Book. On the way to the man village, Mowgli spots a creature he has never seen before: a human girl. Mowgli requests a better look, and while Baloo unsuccessfully attempts to stop him, Bagheera gleefully encourages him on. Mowgli watches Shanti as she sings about her life and fantasizes about owning her own home and family. Mowgli falls off the branch of the tree he was looking down at her from and into the river, where he is easily noticed by the young maiden. Curious about the newcomer, Shanti tries to politely convince him to come with her to the village, only to be met with reluctance and timidness. Not wanting to force him to come, Shanti heads back to the village until she notices Mowgli is following her. Hoping to lead him into the village, she pretends to accidentally drop the jug. Mowgli refills the jug and follows her into the village. At the village entrance, Mowgli hesitates and looks back at his animal guardians across the river with uncertainty. As Shanti stops by the gate to see if Mowgli is coming, the man-cub looks into her flirtatious eyes and becomes infatuated with her. Unable to resist his humanity, Mowgli accompanies Shanti to the village and begins a new life.
Shanti serves as the tritagonist of The Jungle Book 2. Since the end of the original film, Shanti has developed a close friendship with Mowgli and has been tasked with guiding him through the work hours, allowing the two to interact and bond on a daily basis. At the beginning of the film, Mowgli tells the story of his life in the jungle to his new foster family, Shanti and her mother in the form of a shadow puppet show. Despite being entertained, Shanti expresses a small degree of skepticism when Mowgli states that his closest friends were a panther and a bear. Although Ranjan accidentally ruins the show, the audience laugh it off. Mowgli wonders how he will be able to finish the story but Ranjan thinks it is unnecessary as the audience already knows the ending as he gleefully reminds everyone how Mowgli fell for Shanti's eyes and followed her into the village. As Shanti denies having flirted with Mowgli, Ranjan's father, aware of their feelings for each other, tells her that she has nothing to be embarrassed about and that he is grateful to her for bringing Mowgli to their lives. As Shanti and her mother are about to go home, Mowgli mischievously plays on her fears by warning her about Shere Khan lurking around, making her uneasy at first but quickly brushes it off by debunking the probability of such things happening.
The next morning, Shanti heads to the river to collect water. As she is about to bring it back, Mowgli and Ranjan pull a prank on her that ends with her falling in the river. Enraged, she deems Mowgli a bad influence on Ranjan and takes him back to the village to lecture him. Ranjan questions Shanti's fear of the jungle but her only reply is that it is dangerous. Her answer confuses Ranjan as it contradicts what Mowgli has told him about the jungle. Shanti warns him not to believe everything Mowgli tells him, suspecting he may have exaggerated his experience. Knowing she has a crush on Mowgli, Ranjan is surprised to hear her doubts about him. Shanti admits she does like Mowgli as more than a friend but stops talking as she realizes Mowgli heard her, prompting her to blush in embarrassment. Mowgli attempts to convince his friend and brother that the jungle offers a life that the village cannot and demonstrates this by showing them a peeling trick. Shanti is unimpressed and debunks Mowgli's point by demonstrating an even more impressive peeling trick on a mango and reiterates her earlier statement about not listening to everything Mowgli says. Mowgli insists that Shanti is speaking out of ignorance and tells every present child that there is so much more to the jungle than just danger. Though skeptical, Shanti is amused by Mowgli's charisma and plays along as he rallies the village children until she notices he is trying to lead them into the jungle. She panics and inadvertently alerts Ranjan's father, who grounds Mowgli for his disobedience. She tries to apologize but Mowgli gives her the silent treatment. Later that night, Shanti, feeling guilty for getting Mowgli into trouble, brings a bowl of fruit to Mowgli's hut to make amends.
Little does she know Shere Khan is waiting in the shadows of the village for Mowgli. Shanti soon finds Mowgli with Baloo and shouts at the sight of the bear and alerts the villagers of a wild animal. This awakens the villagers and they attack Shere Khan, thinking him to be the animal Shanti is referring to. During the havoc, Shanti sees Baloo and Mowgli flee for the jungle. Believing that Mowgli is being kidnapped, Shanti goes after them to rescue him despite being terrified of the jungle, not knowing that Ranjan had followed. As she searches for Mowgli, she encounters Kaa, the snake. He hypnotizes her and taunts her over her helplessness as he makes her position herself to be eaten by him. Fortunately, Ranjan saves her life by pulling her away from the snake's jaws and begins beating him up with a stick. Shanti hits the ground and instantly snaps out of her trance. She is about to take Ranjan back to the village before he convinces her to let him help her. The next day, as they still search for Mowgli, Shanti finds curly-shaped mango peelings and recognizes them as the peeling trick she taught him earlier and concludes that her friend is not far. That same evening, she finds Mowgli tangled in vines and tries to free him. As Shanti asks where Mowgli's "kidnapper" is, Baloo arrives at the scene and attempts to scare Shanti away only to be caught in the vines and get punched in the nose by Shanti.
Mowgli accidentally reveals that he asked Baloo to attack her, which breaks Shanti's heart and she runs off with Ranjan in tow. Mowgli goes after them to apologize and finds them standing in fear as Shere Khan has found them. Mowgli tells them to run to safety as the tiger approaches. Mowgli then throws dust at his eyes, and runs. Shere Khan goes after him. Mowgli tells Shanti and Ranjan to stay hidden and continues to run. Shanti's concern for Mowgli allows her to conquer her fear of wild animals and runs after him but orders Ranjan to stay hidden until she comes back. Ranjan attempts to follow her but encounters Baloo and warns him of what is happening. At the same time, Bagheera encounters the two and assists them. Shere Khan chases Mowgli and Shanti to an ancient temple where they are separated and forced to hide in the shadows. Bagheera looks after Ranjan while Baloo rushes to the temple in order to aid the children.
She meets Baloo and they start arguing until they both say that they are helping Mowgli. Soon they each hide behind a gong and bang them, confusing Shere Khan. However, Shanti's gong falls, showing herself to Shere Khan. He threatens to kill her if Mowgli does not show himself. To ensure her safety, Mowgli reveals himself to the tiger, who immediately attacks him. Baloo fights off the tiger long enough for Mowgli and Shanti to escape. The two run and leap upon a huge stone tiger head. As they climb, Shere Khan goes after them. However, the stone head collapses and it falls with Mowgli, Shere Khan, and Shanti. Luckily, Baloo catches the children as Shere Khan falls to a ledge, and is then trapped by the head.
The trio leaves the temple and reunites with Bagheera and Ranjan. As Shanti is introduced to Bagheera, they spot the village search party nearby. Shanti is delighted but Mowgli is reluctant to go, hoping Shanti would stay with him and his old family in the jungle instead. Although Shanti has come to empathize with Mowgli regarding the jungle, she knows she can never be a part of it like he is. Shanti takes Ranjan and rushes towards the search party and just like the day they first met, Shanti lets Mowgli decide for himself whether or not he wants to come with her. Having gained respect for Shanti for her loyalty and courage, Baloo is convinced that Mowgli is in good hands and realizes that the man-cub cares about her too much to let her go. As such, Baloo encourages the boy to go. Mowgli catches up with Shanti and decides he wants to go back with her, much to her joy. Mowgli, Shanti and Ranjan then reunite with their families and return to the village.
The next day, Mowgli and Shanti head to the river to do their daily chores, accompanied by Ranjan. However, their main intention is to visit Baloo and Bagheera before finishing their chores. The trio meets with them and begin touring the jungle while singing "Bare Necessities." At the end of the film, Mowgli and Shanti finally begin their romantic relationship.
Shanti makes a brief cameo in the episode "A Jolly Holi Day", being followed by a lovestruck Mowgli as she carries an urn of water atop her head. She, in her original design from the original film, also made a major appearance in the same episode, showing the six international friends India and the holiday "Holi".
Shanti appears at the very end of the game although her voice can be heard humming a song in the middle. Following the story of the film, Mowgli meets Shanti and the two become smitten with one another. As Shanti begins to return to the village, she invites Mowgli to join her, which he accepts.
Shanti herself does not appear in the game but she is mentioned by Mowgli when he assigns the player one of his tasks. This is one of the only pieces of media that refers to Shanti as her name given in The Jungle Book 2 rather than simply "The Girl".
Shanti currently makes no live appearances in the Disney theme parks. Prior to 2000, Shanti had a role in the Animal Kingdom show Journey into the Jungle Book, following her role in the film and leading Mowgli into the Man-Village.
Differences from the source material
- Although Shanti is technically a character made up by Disney, she was heavily inspired by Abdul Gafur's unnamed daughter whom Mowgli fell in love with, hence making Shanti her Disney counterpart.
- Like Shanti, Abdul Gafur's daughter was very beautiful, sweet and served the story as Mowgli's love interest who helped him adjust to a new life in civilization. However, Shanti is a much more developed character than Gafur's daughter and displays significantly more personality in The Jungle Book 2.
- Gafur's daughter was the daughter of a butler who served a wealthy English family. While Shanti's family was considerably more humble.
- Gafur's daughter was from the village of Khanhiwara, a British-controlled community 30 miles outside the Seoni hills and she and Mowgli met when they were teenagers. While Shanti was from the Seoni Man Village and she met Mowgli when they were 10 years old.
- In the books it is revealed that Gafur's daughter was Muslim. While not explicitly stated in the Disney films, Shanti's bindi suggests that she is Hindu.
- In the books it is revealed that Mowgli will marry Gafur's daughter, have children with her and spend the rest of his life with his new family. But while Mowgli and Shanti share romantic feelings for each other, their future marriage is merely hinted at in the song "My Own Home."
- Unlike Shanti, Gafur's daughter was not afraid of the jungle. Instead she was fascinated with Mowgli's ability to communicate with animals.
- Shanti was the first human Mowgli laid eyes on whereas Gafur's daughter was introduced to him by her father and Mowgli was already familiar with mankind, having lived in a different village as a child and was adopted by Messua.
- In The Jungle Book, Shanti was only known as The Girl. In the sequel, it was revealed that her name is Shanti.
- Shanti's animation in The Jungle Book was used as a reference by Mark Henn when animating Ariel in The Little Mermaid.
- Shanti's appearance in the Jungle Book is far from the one in the Jungle Book 2. In the first film, she is shown with pigtails and bows in her hair and wears pink, depicting a more feminine nature, while in the second film, her appearance is more conventional to young Indian girls in 19th century Central India.
- In The Jungle Book 2, Shanti had a solo to sing about her fear of the jungle and how she must find the strength to conquer her fear, but the scene was deleted on account of Disney producers deciding that the song would take too much attention from Mowgli and the story plot.
- The name Shanti means "peace" in Hindi, reflecting Shanti's desire for a safe and peaceful life.
- Her signature song, "My Own Home", hints that she might become Mowgli's wife in the future.
- Shanti's father was mentioned to be a hunter in the original film but was absent in the sequel. This has led some fans to believe that her father was killed by a wild animal at some point, thus triggering her fear of the jungle and wild animals. However, as neither she nor her mother expressed any grief during The Jungle Book 2, it is possible that her father was simply on a hunting trip during the events of the film.
- Some fans have also speculated whether or not her father is Buldeo the hunter, a deleted character from the original film's earlier drafts, who was also the father of Mowgli's love interest from Zoltan Korda's Jungle Book (1942).
- Shanti knows better peeling tricks than Mowgli.
- Despite not being a feral child, Shanti is able to understand Baloo.
- Shanti in The Jungle Book 2 bears much resemblance to Mahala from Zoltan Korda's Jungle Book. Like Shanti, Mahala is also barefoot, wears a choli and lehenga skirt and is the daughter of a hunter. As was with Shanti, Mahala also served as Mowgli's love interest who was at first skeptical about Mowgli's life in the jungle being exactly the way he described, was afraid of wild animals and was once hypnotized by a snake.