Aamir Khan, Juhi Chawla and snakes? Sounds like an excellent Nag Panchami Film Fesssstival subject. The film is pretty terrible, but is almost always So Bad It’s Good, and the songs are quite pleasing in both snakey choreography and energy. It may have lost something in translation due to the dodgy quality youtube version with no subs that I watched, but I doubt it. It seems of late that Aamir has distanced himself from his pre-Lagaan career. But I say let him be known for his heroic role as Shiva the hairy-chested snake charmer who saves his lady love Paro (oh so young and pretty Juhi) from a crazed Snake Queen (Kalpana Iyer).
The film opens with Thakur Chaudhary attempting to steal a Naag Mani by using a very flawed contraption. In the process, he kills a snake and draws the ire of the Snake Queen on his own household.
She declares that as he killed her child, she will kill his. And off she goes and bites the young lad as he sleeps.
The weeping parents, with the Snake Queen laughing at their grief, put their son’s corpse on a little raft arrangement, and he is sent off on the currents of the river. Of course he washes up at the feet of the one man who can reverse a death by snake bite. The child lives and grows up to become Shiva (Aamir). He learns to use magical powers that involve him waving a bone and a skull around, and doing lots of fist clenching emoting.
He has his uncle, his snakes, a daft sidekick, and is being pursued by the village skank belle. He also has a waistcoat with a snake motif for special occasions.
Shiva goes into the village for some reason, possibly to deliver a snake, and sees Paro at the fair. He impresses her with his snake, and she is immediately full of dreams of love as well as thoughts of garam garam jalebis and thandi thandi kulfi.
My Hindi vocabulary is small and selective so I may not have captured all the nuances of her romantic fantasy. Paro is the daughter of local bigwig Chaudhary Charanjit Singh and is out of Shiva’s league.
No one wants these youngsters to get together and this leads into not entirely boring Romeo and Juliet episode. I was concerned the snake theme may dissipate, but Shiva uses snakes as part of his courtship ritual which was an interesting approach. Paro can’t stop thinking about him, his snake, and possibly those jalebis and so love blooms.
They’re so young! So pretty!
Romance blossoms despite Paro’s father arranging attacks on Shiva using black sorcery, beatings and guns.
Of course, merely locking Shiva in his room cannot keep them apart, not while clever snake Naga Raj is there to unlock the door.
Shiva’s people want to keep him away from Paro too as they can see she is trouble for their boy.
Shiva and Paro scamper around the forest looking like the poster children for young love and carefree premarital fumbling.
Until the revelation that Paro has been married since she was 3 years old to some unseen Rajput scion. Guess who that boy was? Sigh. Shiva has to perform at her wedding (oh the tragedy!) before Paro is sent to live a widow’s (I’m guessing the widow bit as she wore white, no sindoor, and cried non-stop so it was quite funereal anyway) life at her in-laws and mopes around a lot.
Note: Re the village belle – Despite her clothing usually erring on the correct side of the fabric to flesh ratio for a snake, she does fail other snake tests and is a Fake Snake.
Anyway Paro’s change of address propels Shiva back to his family home and into Snake Queen territory. He does a lot of pining and trying to lure Paro out with his snake music, which is just asking for trouble.
Naga Raj saves his human from the Snake Queen which made me wonder about the Snake Code and what did a snake have to do for other snakes to turn against it, and did they have to show just cause if they were opposing a more powerful creature? And also, what were her responsibilities towards lesser snakes? Was she justified in attacking them? It raised so many questions.
I did like this song where the Snake Queen impersonates Juhi, but is caught out by her excessive accessories (compared to the pristine white of the real Paro). She misses a couple of easy bites. I really had to question this whole selective bite placement thing that filmi snakes seem to have.
It emerges that the uncle snake charmer knows Shiva’s real identity. Shiva’s father rejects the idea as some attempt at magic although I wondered if that was really to protect his son given that the vengeful snake was likely to still be around. All unaware of this peril, Shiva and Paro return to the forest and I think they sort of get married. Wedding rituals in the snake charmer village seemed quite straightforward, and there was a robust approach to courtship. Basically, if you can catch your person and subdue them, you’re as good as married.
Having set Naga Raj to wait outside (after a bit of a chat about the privacy required on one’s wedding night), Aamir and Juhi are alone. He does lots of nuzzling and she looks like she has passed out. But the Snake Queen takes the opportunity to attack.
Can Shiva’s magical powers save Paro? Will there be flying snakes? Will it involve a ritual both very silly and slightly icky? Will someone go up in a ball of flames? Will people just learn how to get along? What do you think? (If you really have to know, I can’t help you thanks to Shemaroo – who don’t care enough to release decent quality DVDs but will stop you watching this on youtube. Sigh)
This is not a good film but I was entertained enough and don’t regret the time spent. I can’t say that for every film I see! Tahir Hussain hasn’t created a masterpiece but he has made a pretty solid snake revenge romance. The soundtrack by Anand-Milind is pleasant, and there is some nicely energetic dancing. And you know, Aamir, Juhi and those snakes. 2 ½ stars!