Sunday, October 24, 2010

Great snakes of our time

It’s considered impolite these days to refer to India as a land of snake-charmers (oh no, we’re all about the slumdog millionaires now), but that doesn't stop movie producers from commenting on the social and sartorial habits of the famed ichadhaari naag - a snake that can transform itself into a human and back again. I say this apropos a quote from a recent newspaper interview with Govind Menon, co-producer of a film titled Hisss:
The whole concept of nudity is justified because when you transform into a snake, you can’t have a dress or even a cloth or even a piece of jewellery on you!
Ah, such attention to detail, such concern for authenticity – the result, no doubt, of years of research. The nudity that Mr Menon is justifying is that of Mallika Sherawat, and his quote is a good variant on the patented ones we’ve heard from Bollywood starlets for decades. “What do you expect me to wear in a swimming pool, a burkha?” is so passé, whereas “What do you expect me to wear while turning into a snake, leather tights?” has a nice ring to it.

Hindi cinema has a solid tradition of snake movies, but in this, as in most things, you can trust Rajinikanth to have the last word. The much-hyped Robot was built on a dubious premise (why cast the superstar as a multifunctional android when he has for years been playing omnipotent human characters who do things that the most advanced robots wouldn’t dare attempt?), but it did have a spectacular climactic sequence where hundreds of evil Rajini robots arrange themselves into various menacing shapes. The final and most impressive one: a giant mechanical cobra that opens its jaws and swallows cars and helicopters whole. This truly awesome ichadhaari snake makes all the others look like measly little earthworms - Ms Sherawat, clad or not, has quite a challenge ahead of her.

[A little something about my favourite ichadhaari naag film - Rajkumar Kohli's Nagin - in this old post]


  1. The whole Sherawat overkill for a film that sounded dreadful right from the time it was announced has been phenomenal. The first Nagin film in 24 years as Ms Sherawat kept saying.

    People seem to have forgotten the multi-starrer of multi-starrers Raj Kumar Kohli's Jaani Dushman - Ek Anokhi Kahani (not to be confused with Kohli's older Jaani Dushman).

    If you haven't seen it, would be a great change of tastes from Bunuel.

  2. Captain Subtext: I've seen it - multiple times - and it's one of my favourite films; think I've written about it too somewhere. But somehow I don't think of it as a pure ichadhaari naag film like Nagin or Nagina - in the action scenes there's too much Matrix-like stuff going on, and it's more like a college/fratboy movie otherwise.

  3. And Sonu Nigam's squeal of "Bhaiya!" near the end is one of the most profound moments in all of cinema.

  4. From what I read from WikiPedia, is this the first Indian movie to be based out of the Indus valey civilizaton ? :)

  5. The search for authenticity in a movie about the ichchhadhaari nag is ironic indeed.