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

No wonder I'm a Kali fan

From a description of Kali in the book Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine: the Ten Mahavidyas:

"She is gaunt, has fangs, laughs loudly, dances madly, wears a garland of corpses, sits on the back of a ghost, and lives in the cremation ground." (p. 70)

Apart from those last three (which make me wonder why Hindu imagery never caught on in the realm of heavy metal album art), that sounds exactly like me in my twenties! I'm a little less gaunt and madly-dancing than I used to be, but the crooked front teeth and the laugh are still intact.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mixing up my Nagins

I've seen the 1976 Nagin, starring Reena Roy and Jeetendra as the attractive snake couple.

I recently saw the 1986 Nagina with Sridevi and a besweatered Rishi Kapoor. (And I really need to see the sequel, Nigahen, which stars Sridevei with, well, Sunny Deol. Who I'm sorry to say is no Rishi).

Now, I thought I was Netflixing the 1954 Nagin (the one with Vyjanthimala and the revolutionary electronic score), but it's actually a 1951 Nagina with Nutan. Wasn't paying attention. But how bad can a snake movie be?

Of course, I have high hopes for Hisss, the upcoming Jennifer Lynch movie starring -- yes! -- Irfan Khan (who the IMDB says replaced Amitabh in the lead, which seems very strange). At least I shouldn't mix it up with the Nagin/Nagina family of films, although it might get confused with Sssssss, one of Dirk Benedict's early efforts...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Old/New Stomping Grounds

My Place of Employment has been in a temporary location for the past two years, and we recently moved into a new building on the same site as my original Place of Employment. Consequently, I'm having to re-learn the whole lay of the neighborhood, which is especially interesting since Flood Time 2009 isn't over yet.

There's been lots of information about which bridges are closed and/or open to traffic, but nobody ever mentions the footpath. I noticed today that there's a whole new line of dike on the riverside leading to the NP Avenue bridge, so while the bridge is open for cars, the sidewalk leading to it is inaccessible. There was way too much traffic for experimentation, so I couldn't tell if the pedestrian part of the actual bridge is get-at-able or not. If the entrance to the pedestrian bridge is open, then a person could walk on the grass across the street (where there's no sidewalk), and then cross at the last minute to get to the pedestrian bridge.

If not, with the 1st Avenue bridge completely blocked by dike, that would make the Main Avenue bridge the only way to get across the river on foot. (And either way, it's the only halfway safe option, since the automobile bridge on NP has a really dubious curve).

In today's recon mission, I also learned that noonish is when the nearby steel works has their lunch, so it's not an ideal time to run to the gas station for coffee.

Also, I wasn't surprised that the expensive furniture store and some of those architects are gone, but when a pawn and used gun shop goes out of business, it's a sign that the economy is REALLY in trouble. Fortunately, the mission church next door is still going strong. I've always wanted to check out its services, but I'm unlikely to be anonymous among its congregation. I'm fairly confident that a familiar homeless guy would ask "What are you doing here?" and I don't have an answer for that.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Life imitates stand-up

So I went to the post office yesterday to mail out my taxes. The postage came to eighty-four cents, so I handed them a dollar. In return, I got my change and a receipt that was literally five inches long. My first thought was "I thought the post office was losing money. Thermal paper isn't cheap, people!"

Then, of course, I thought of the Mitch Hedberg routine about buying a donut: "There's no need to bring pen and paper into this."

Later, we were watching a sitcom on tv that was actually funny, a sure sign of a world gone all topsy-turvy (Better Off Ted, which I'd never even heard of before). And I saw a prescription drug ad that was truly insane, even by the standards of prescription drug ads.

It started with a classic anecdotal intro, snippets of different people who are on antidepressants, but are still depressed. Then the dramatic announcement: studies show that antidepressants aren't really helping two-thirds of the people who are taking them. Wow! Pretty forthright of a drug company to admit, in a drug commerical, that drugs are ineffective! (Lots of interesting research on that subject, actually, but that's a digression).

So if you're depressed, and on prescription drugs, and you're still depressed, what does the commercial advise? You should start taking their new drug in addition to the ones that don't work for you!

Isn't there an old saying that insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"? (Ah, yes, attributed to Einstein).

I couldn't remember the name of the drug, but cursory research shows a new school of antidepressants that are supposed to augment treatments, some by working in a "cannabis-like" way on the brain. I will refrain, for once in my life, from stating the obvious.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Truer words

"By God, a poet who cannot talk rubbish is incapable of writing poetry."

Actor Shyam, quoted by Saadat Hasan Manto in Stars From Another Sky: The Bombay Film World of the 1940s