This isn’t your grandmother’s Nagin movie–this is “Hisss,” the Split Image Production directed by American Jennifer Lynch, daughter of the famous David Lynch. The story of the Nagin is a classic in Bollywood, and has been portrayed in film and television for decades, even by such high-brow names as Sridevi, Vyjayanthimala, and Rekha. Most often the tale follows the basic plot of somebody angering the mythic Cobra goddess by killing/capturing her husband-snake and thus she exacts her supernatural vendetta on said human. And of course, in true Bollywood style, there are a plethora of songs, some of which have become quite infamous. This formula for a Nagin movie may have been popular in India several decades ago, but for a movie to be successful in today’s India, much less in front of an American audience, a Nagin story would need a major re-telling.
If you can get past the cringe-inducing title, there seems to be quite a lot this film has to offer that many recent Bollywood/Hollywood crossovers failed at. In fact, while some may claim that the two cinemas are a perfect match, the epic flop of Hrithik Roshan’s recent movie, “Kites,” would show that it may be simply impossible to perfectly please both audiences. And now where superstars Rai and Roshan have left off, the sex symbol Mallika Sherawat steps in, along with the great Irrfan Khan, who, coming hot off a role in Slumdog Millionaire, is back on the world stage to play co-star to Sherawat. The idea of a successful crossover movie between Bollywood and Hollywood, one that truly combines the strengths of these different styles into something both entertaining and memorable, has been attempted many times without notable success. What makes “Hisss” different and hopefully more successful, is that it takes a classic Indian story and gives it western sensibilities. There aren’t any spontaneous song-and-dance numbers, but the story is still deeply set within the culture of India, by means of its mythos, religion, and festivals. And as “Hisss” is being billed as a creature-feature of sorts, there is action and gore, similar to what one would find in any other monster flick. Another really interesting fact about “Hisss” is its special effects–an aspect of Bollywood movies that has always been lacking. For the first time we will get to see an Indian movie with CGI that rivals any other blockbuster American film, courtesy of Robert Kurtzman, and a live transformation of the Nagin from its snake to human form! (I’m pretty excited about this because 1) that’s just freaking awesome 2) in previous Nagin movies the transformation usually went something like this–all props to Sridevi though, she’s amazing)
The west certainly has its share of monster movies, but after the past few years of Twilight-mania, and the hoards of other vampire/werewolf knockoffs that surfaced along with it, we could use a new type of monster to fear (preferably one that doesn’t sparkle) What Lynch and Sherawat are trying to do, introduce a new mythical character to the western consciousness, is no small feat and I commend them for their cross cultural endeavor. “Hisss” releases August 15th, just in time for India’s Independence Day, and right after Naag Panchami; just like “Slumdog Millionaire,” it will probably start out as limited release, but it may slither into a theater near you if it becomes popular like Slumdog was. Mallika Sherawat has already labeled her upcoming flick the “Slumdog of the horror genre,” and if her prediction turns out to be true, then we will undoubtedly see her in wide release in America.
The trailer contains brief nudity and not-so-brief gore & snake-induced carnage, so avert the eyes of the little ones