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 village girl 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.
In general, Shanti is a sweet, loyal, introverted and hard-working young girl who lives an organized life and has great respect for authority. She has a very obvious crush on Mowgli and finds him charming, but has a great fear of the jungle in contrast to Mowgli's obsession of it. However, she managed to conquer her fear by summoning the courage to step out of her comfort zone and came to realize 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 Shanti's serious nature, she is far from being devoid of child-like traits and often displays her playful side. Especially around Mowgli, whose fun-loving attitude often manages to amuse her and occasionally she enjoys flirting with him, usually by blinking her eyes at him just like she did the day they first met. Shanti is also a dreamer and sometimes takes a break from her chores and look to the future where she hopes to get married and raise a daughter of her own.
Even though there is no relation, Shanti treats Mowgli's adoptive brother Ranjan as if he were her own, most likely because of how close her own family is to Mowgli's adoptive family. 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 makes her brief appearance near the end of The Jungle Book, but she was not named until the sequel. 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. Mowgli falls off the branch of the tree he was looking down at her from and is easily noticed by the young maiden. Curious, Shanti tries to politely convince him to come with her to the village, only to be met with reluctance and timidness. She eventually manages to lure the boy into the village by purposely dropping her 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 falls in love with her. Unable to resist his humanity, Mowgli accompanies Shanti to the village and begins a new life.
Shanti makes her biggest appearance in The Jungle Book 2. 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. Although Ranjan accidentally ruins the show, the audience laugh it off and Ranjan reminds everyone of how the story ends with 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 warns her about Shere Khan lurking around, making her uneasy but quickly brushes it off. 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. As Ranjan questions Shanti's fear of the jungle, Mowgli interrupts the conversation and insists Shanti is being ignorant and has never gotten to know the jungle for what it truly is. 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 is about to eat her before Ranjan saves her by hitting the snake with a stick. 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 then throws dust at his eyes, and they run. Shere Khan goes after them. Mowgli tells Shanti and Ranjan to stay hidden and continues to run. Shanti then follows after Mowgli and the tiger as Ranjan meets Baloo and warns him of what is happening. The chase leads to an ancient temple where Baloo, Mowgli, and Shanti hide among its shadows.
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. Soon Ranjan's parents and Shanti's mother find them and they return home, where Ranjan's father now understands that the jungle is a part of Mowgli. At the end of the film. Mowgli and Shanti go to collect water from the river. They, along with Ranjan, soon meet Baloo and Bagheera and sing "The Bare Necessities".
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 of that character.
- 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 relationship is unknown.
- 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 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 various Indian languages, reflecting Shanti's desire for a safe and peaceful life.