Nagin: Don’t Mess With the Ladies

19 May

Nagin is the story of a pissed off snake (Reena Roy) out to get some good old-fashioned revenge on the bozos (Sunil Dutt, Feroz Khan, Kabir Bedi, Vinod Mehra, Sanjay Khan and Anil Dhawan) who pumped her soulmate (Jeetendra) full of bullets after he went out of his way to be nice to them. Chills, thrills and boatloads of (unintended) hilarity follow. Enough to make this my favoritest Bollywood B-movie ever.

The legend of the snake woman is one that is familiar to Indians everywhere, if not through religious texts like the Mahabharata and folklore then through movies like this one. According to it, there are certain highly evolved snakes out there, usually extremely venomous cobras, who can take human form thanks to a “jewel” they carry deep within themselves (hence the scene from Nagina in which Sridevi appears to vomit yesterday’s lunch into Amrish Puri’s hand – she was handing him her highly prized shapeshifting powers). Although male snakes also have this ability, it’s the female of the species that appears to really excite the imagination. Nagin is no exception.

But while it would have been easy to just straight up make a movie about a murderous snake woman luring susceptible men to their deaths, Nagin decides to take a more scenic route to the finish line and starts doing all sorts of interesting things.

For one thing, the so-called villain of the piece is actually quite a sympathetic character. There she was, minding her own business, looking forward to a night of glorious nookie after a wait that lasted a 100 years, and half-a-dozen humans come lumbering into her bedroom and shoot up her lover. It’s a brutal home invasion – jungle style! Obviously she becomes a little unhinged and isn’t all that interested in the whys and wherefores.

She might be in human form, but she’s still a snake. What’s she going to do? Call the police? No, she’s going to take care of it on her own, thanks. Girl-power before it had a name.

But who are these idiots who destroyed her happiness? In a lesser movie, they’d be horrible douchebags you’d want to personally throw down a deep hole or else saintly, lovely men who didn’t deserve all the bad stuff slithering towards them. Happily for us, Nagin is much better than that.

For one thing, they’re all in this mess because the male snake has more than a bit of a woodland sprite in him (hint: Jeetendra in interpretive dance mode fluttering through the forest in a skirt) and his idea of a good deed is to invite some guy poking his nose in where it doesn’t belong to come watch him getting it on with his girlfriend. Snake society must be much more naive than the human one because out here that’s called asking for trouble.

And when he does get in spades, it’s a case of mistaken identity – the guy with the gun saw a sexy lady being attacked by a vicious snake and his itchy finger did the rest. But then the movie suggests he wasn’t reacting entirely out of chivalry – he was just so turned on by the sexy snake lady, he forgot everything his friend had told him about how they were headed into the forest to see a couple of snake-humans get it on. So when the Nagin shows up at his house to play on his attraction and chew him dead (whoops! did I spoil that for you?), nobody is really all that bothered. It’s when she makes it clear that she isn’t differentiating between the killer and his BFFs that people get sweaty.

This then sets us up for a number of fascinating subtexts:

For instance, the nature of love and trust in a relationship. The Nagin’s preferred method of offing her enemies is to take on the form of the women they love / are attracted to and seduce them to a point where they’re no longer thinking with their brain so she can sink her fangs into them (and boy, does she have a bite on her!).

When the men catch on to her little plan, they’re then forced to spend all their time peering suspiciously at their wives and girlfriends, wondering if they can trust them. In one hilarious episode (with subtitles!), Feroz Khan opens the door to a bootylicious Mumtaaz with her foot inserted firmly in her mouth, holding a boombox. Yes, it’s just as bizarre as it sounds. It’s also quite possibly the most entertaining yet dire PSA ever created against hooking up with strangers: they might force you to dance to “stupid music” and try to shoot you!

Mumtaaz is also an excellent example of how Nagin constantly plays footsie with Bollywood’s Madonna-Whore complex. On the one hand, she comes to his door because their mothers think they might make a go of it, like a proper Indian girl should. But what sells them on each other is a shared taste for liquor, shaking a leg, living dangerously and that they find each other hot (also, a combined IQ that barely makes it to the double digits but that’s another matter).

All the women in this movie, in fact, are Madonna figures – there’s the devout wife who prays her way into her atheist husband’s heart; the chaste girlfriend whose purity is so bright, death is pretty much assured to the man who looks at her with lustful eyes; and of course, the ever-fabulous Rekha who isn’t afraid to break a few nails for her lover. The movie takes great care to explain that the slutty side of their personality isn’t actually their own (except for Mumtaaz, her boombox and her head for hard liquor, all of which are portents of doom from the word go) – it’s the demented snake trying to act like them.

But the Nagin herself fits the criteria for a good, faithful woman. She isn’t doing all this for the fun of it – there’s nothing to suggest she’s intrinsically evil. Even when she’s writhing around with the men she plans to kill, it’s nothing more than a means to an end. Snakes might be an iffy lot with their free love and what not, but at the end of the day she’s a faithful mate exacting revenge for the murder of her soulmate. What’s so wrong with that?

Ah, that leads us to the philosophical implications of vengeance. In 1976, Amitabh Bachchan’s Angry Young Man was marching through the nation, righting the wrongs done his mother, his father, his sister, his brother, his lover, his neighbor, his best friend, his adoptive parents, his crew at work, anyone and anything he could find really. And he would continue to do so for the next many years to great acclaim.

Slap bang in the middle of that comes this movie suggesting that even (female) animals know better. Excellent. So why am I the only person who loves this movie?


Posted by on May 19, 2009 in Desipundit, Entertainment, Movies, Review, Video


30 responses to “Nagin: Don’t Mess With the Ladies

  1. M

    May 19, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    No, you’re not alone – I hated Sridevi’s version, which I saw first, but had the fortune to see this much later – and loved it! B4U seems to have a renewed fondness for this as well – they’ve been playing songs from it for the past couple of weeks…and while I didn’t remember this, Reena looks pretty well upholstered, even in her snakeskin bikini 🙂


  2. Aaren

    May 19, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    🙂 There are others who share this obsession as well. Please tell me you’ve read this.

  3. pitu

    May 19, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    I only like Sri’s ‘Nagin’ but that’s coz it’s Sri! And Rishi! And khandars and Amrish and beens and main teri dushman! I can’t stand the other ones tho- ‘Vishkanya’ (starring Pooja Bedi) which I have had the misfortune to watch, is so terrible it killed my funny bone :-p And ‘Tum Mere Ho’ proves Aamir-Juhi were also quite capable of acting in ludicrous films. ‘Jaani Dushman’ on the other hand, is a veritable treasure trove of C grade people doing C grade things and providing A+ entertainment, the best scene being when Manisha Koirala is Bharatnatyam’ing in her Amrapali costume and the combined weight of her thighs (substantial) causes an avalanche. It was very logical.

  4. Rahul Sharma

    May 19, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    Bas, ab aur nahi sahaa jaataa!!! Stomach mein headache.

  5. Broom

    May 19, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    “So why am I the only person who loves this movie?”

    Maybe cos you’re the only one who’s seen it?

    Where can I bit torrent this baby?! And if it has subtitles then The Girl is in for a treat…

  6. Mamma Mia! Me a Mamma?!?

    May 19, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    RMAOL!!! You actually make me want to see this movie, you wicked woman you!

  7. Broom

    May 19, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    OMG just watched that clip that you’ve linked to. Surreal.
    I heart B grade Bollywood.

  8. buddy

    May 20, 2009 at 1:03 am

    this is actually a pretty neat review! and the ichhadari genre has given us our finest gems yet.

  9. sachita

    May 20, 2009 at 3:10 am

    That’s coz i bunked tv and was playing outside when this was being telecast in DD. I caught the sridevi one though. And as they say if you have seen one Naagin movie, you have seen them all.( and also i am scared of them!)

    Just for my information, do they try to out the snake from her human form by playing the snake song. (you know, the one that has been topping their music charts for centuries, i dont think they can actually hear!.) That will force sridevi to don the snake dress and dance.

    If not, Sridevi’s nagin wins hands down.

  10. Ron

    May 20, 2009 at 4:27 am

    You are not the only one who loves this movie. And other like it. Just caught bits of the Sridevi starrer snake movie…not Nagina, the sequel to that. It was amazing. Anupam Kher took this snake out of a basket n told it that the time to fulfil its destiny had come and all it had to do was sing and Sridevi would be in his “vash”. The snake hissed n nodded!!! And promptly turned into Sunny Deol singing soulful love ballads. I love the 1980s and early 90s..that era produced such amazing Hindi movies 🙂

  11. Ramsu

    May 20, 2009 at 4:37 am

    This is why I don’t like Jaani Dushman 2. If you’re a wronged woman and want revenge, you gotta have the nous to do it yourself. Asking Armaan Kohli for help isn’t kosher.

    Oh, and you’re not alone. Then again, I also love the Ramsay Brothers, so what do I know? 😀


  12. Amey

    May 20, 2009 at 6:42 am

    Nagin? Baah, I say. “Jaani Dushman” took this icchhadhari naag thing to such a level that nobody has dared make a movie in this genre after that, for the fear of comparison.

    Our childhood stories had naagmani on top of naag’s head. And then the Prince had to go get it to get Princess, cure his/her parent, defeat the villainous minister/general. Those were the days.

    BTW, can I make a movie review suggestion: Patal Bhairavi or Hatim Tai, please 😀

  13. neha

    May 20, 2009 at 6:51 am

    I will sleep a happy woman tonight. Just watching the woman with the boombox on her head was enough to fill me with joy.

  14. Gradwolf

    May 20, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Hey, the Sridevi Nagin movie was pretty bearable if I remember. But what do I know, I saw it at the age of 10 maybe? :p

  15. harini calamur

    May 20, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    i have watched this movie in an edit room late at night – we were putting together a film based programme – cracking up with laughter.
    the intital bit where Jeetu and Reena are seem like having it on – i am surprised it passed censor
    which goes to prove that there are different rules for humans and snakes 🙂

  16. pitu

    May 20, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    @Harini: ‘Tum Mere Ho’ had naag sex too 😀 The Censor ppl are clearly afraid of pissssssing off the snakes :-p

  17. (K)nee? Yeah!

    May 20, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    This is that Kamal/Sripriya movie, right? (Not sure which one of them was the remake.) I caught Neeya on TV way back when but this one seems more interesting with Mumtaz and her boombox. And you do mean “foot in the mouth” quite literally, right?, as opposed to the normal way some of us are predisposed, figuratively speaking (yes, me, me, me, undoubtedly!).

    Oh BTW, how about this one to speak for the in-built violence gene in the female (or the “feminine” side of the male)? Had me in splits! 😀

    Ramsu: “Asking Armaan Kohli for help isn’t kosher.” Ah, a polite (proxy) plea — duly noted by Wronged Woman for the purposes of Jaani Dushman 3, I’m sure. Rest assured…

  18. Amrita

    May 21, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    M – you should take a look at Yogita Bali in this. Reena is at least all bikini perfect – Yogita is like a nice plush couch.

    Aaren – lolz, that’s awesome! thanks for the link!

    Pitu – Also Nigahen! Anupam Kher channeling Amrish Puri is something to behold. What is this obsession with Jaani Dushman? I see your JD and raise my Nagin!

    Rahul – hee hee hee! Tera kya hoga Kaaliya when I get to Hatim Tai!

    Mamma – listen, a bottle of wine and this movie will enslave your husband forever! 😀

    Broom – welcome to the Nagin fold! Watch it on youtube today!

    Buddy – it can’t even touch the movie! Go see it!

    Sachita – shame shame! what kind of child goes outside to play when a snake movie is on? If you’re scared of snakes, then I guess i shouldn’t point you to Neha’s link where Aruna Irani is breastfeeding the critters. In addition to snakes having ears, they also apparently have long memories!

    Ron – AHAHAHAH!!! Sunny Deol in Nigahen! I remember! I remember! And I’m off to youtube it now!

    Ramsu – Armaan Kohli is a rampant case of nepotism gone mad! When Jeetendra in a mini skirt out-naags you, it’s time to shed the snakeskin and go home.

    Amey – hahahaha! Kya yaad dila diya! Pataal Bhairavi indeed! I think I’ve only ever seen bits and pieces of Hatim Tai because after a while Jeetendra just wears me down and I keep hoping one those scary jeevis would actually finish him off but they never do and I get very disappointed. But my god, I really should do a Hatim Tai post! Thanks for the idea!

    Neha – hee hee, I don’t know how people don’t just spontaneously erupt into applause when that scene plays out. It’s the ultimate in WTF.

    Adithya – I saw it when I was around 10 too and I was obsessed with that song Main teri dushman… I saw it somewhere a while back and I was shocked at how low rent-y a lot of it was. sadness.

    Harini – everyone knows snakes are slutty so they can sex it up all they like!

    (K)Nee Yeah – (lol!) Man, if only she’d actually put her foot in her mouth, this would officially have been the best movie EVAH! I don’t know if the Tamil one is the one with Kamal and Sripriya (although that sounds right for some reason) but I do know this was remade in Tamil.

  19. pitu

    May 21, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    What is up with these bizarre breastfeeding scenes in Bollywood? I remember this horrid Jaya Prada movie (was it Maa?) where she’s a GHOST and she breastfeeds her baby (which is alive). How is this even possible???? *head explodes*

  20. memsaab

    May 21, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    No, you are not alone in the Nagin love. I totally *heart* it too. I think it’s the best snake movie out there 🙂

  21. Amey

    May 21, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    I see your JD and raise my Nagin!

    Meh.. All in:

    Oh yeah, Hatim Tai ki jai ho 😀

  22. (K)Nee Yeah

    May 21, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Well, it’s just that I (really!) thought the foot-in-the-mouth provocative (pornographic?) pose probably went well with the bootylicious, boombox-holding Mumtaz you describe…In these snake movies, that kind of “flexibility” is to be expected, right? I guess me is real naive. 😀

  23. Banno

    May 23, 2009 at 12:29 am

    Me loves it too. Not the Sridevi one though. There was a bit too much of virtuous wife business in that for me.

  24. Gaurav

    May 26, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    I don’t know if i liked the movie when i had seen it but i am definitely a fan of ‘snake woman’ concept….I think, somebody should make a movie with like vampires, werewolves and snake women. (can be a love triangle… 🙂 )…would be awesome! 🙂

  25. bollywooddeewana

    June 1, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    You’re definitely not the only one the Tere sang payr mein song is one of my fave bollywood choreographed songs, i love the way she works it in that Jungle. I’ll do a full review with tons of pics on my blog sometime soon. The unforgettable ‘Tere sang pyar mein’ with the sizzling, fierce Reena

  26. Rahul Sharma

    July 17, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    I want Hatim Taiji.

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