Sunday, April 19, 2009

The snake is only metaphorical

But not in any way that brings Freud into the conversation. Thank goodness!

Well, 1951's Nagina certainly wasn't what I expected. Mainly because snakes really don't have anything to do with the story, except for the pair of snake-shaped "Nagmani" rings, one with a real diamond and one fake, that are at the crux of the mystery plot.

Instead, this is an entry into the "old dark house" genre, and a less creaky one than plenty of other old-fashioned black and white horror films I've seen. Hero Srinath (Nasir Khan, Dilip Kumar's brother) sets off to prove his missing father is innocent of murder charges, and ends up at a decrepit mansion haunted by both a sinister mute servant and ghostly singing a la Mahal.

Meanwhile, his sidekick has a comic-relief courtship with feisty neighbor Lily, whose whole gaggle of friends frolic around in fabulous vintage (Western) frocks and bathing suits. Even better, she does two numbers singing with an all-girl dancehall band! ("My My My Dear" and "Humse Koyee"). I wish I could find out more about these people, but the IMDB is so sketchy on details that I'm actually transcribing the opening credits below. Anyone with information about all-girl Indian dance bands (probably Goa-based) -- feel free to write in.

Love interest Nutan does a fine job in the classic Radcliffian Gothic role as the innocent daughter of the primary villain. In one of the successfully suspenseful scenes, she's refreshingly composed when a pair of corpse-like hands claw their way out of a marble slab ; she recovers from her momentary terror and goes over to help whoever it is. Later, when a secondary villain is gloating over his scheme, she takes the opportunity to just run away, like we always wish the heroine would.

Unfortunately, something was very off with the film's subtitles, which miss lots of dialogue, and frequently break off into ellipses, as statements will be continued, which never are. In other words, "my verdict on this film is ..."

Crazily, there are no playback singers listed in the film's credits.

Restricted to adults, but don't get your hopes up about what that means.

Pancholi Productions
Starring Nutan, Nasir (Khan), Bipin Gupta, Hiralal, Mohana (taking a wild guess that she was Lily), Goldstein, Shamlal, Michael & Gope
Story and Dialogues: R.S. Chaudhry
Songs by Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri
Music by Shanker & Jaikishen
Photography by M.N. Malhotra
Audiography by Keku Edulji and Saraiya
Song Recording by Minoo Katrack
Art Director: G.D. Dixit
Editing: Dharamvir
Stills: Janardhan
Production-in-charge: Phulshanker D. Rawal
Make-up: Karekar
Hair Styles: Tiny Ginetta
Dances: K.S. More
Produced at Minerva & Eastern Studios
Processed at Famous Cine Laboratories (Tardeo)
Recorded on RCA Sound System
Direction: Raj Sibal, Kanti Dave, S. Sharma
Photography: B.F. Divecha
Production: Kantilal Jani & Jamnadas
Make-up: Shantaram (yup, it's listed twice)
Costumes: P.M. Rao
Editing: Sham
Produced by Dalsukh M. Pancholi
Directed by Ravindra


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Fine, I and thought.