Friday, November 2, 2012

Nagpoornima: Just Another Snake Cinema

Bangladesh, 1983
Dir: Masud Parvez
Main Actors: Sohel Rana, Babita, Rozina, Adil.
Format: 35 mm
Duration: 135 mins
The Kalnagini (female black cobra) targeted a pet bird of a child for her dinner. The baby girl hits the snake with a stick for taking her bird. The Kalnagini bites the girl, the daughter of a snake-charmer, dies. The angry father plays the flute to find the Kalnagini and kills the son of the Kalnagini. Raged Kalnagini declares she will kill the son of the snake-charmer and thus will make him childless. The father rushes to Sadhu Baba, the saint. Sadhu Baba prescribes a difficult and complex way to save Mangol, the son. The snake-charmer has to feed the venom of black cobra everyday for 12 years. The boy was also given an armlet by the Sadhu Baba. The armlet must not be put off from Mangol’s body. If it is put off and one snake bites him meanwhile, from the next full moon, Mangol will be in trouble.
The snake-charmer follows the prescription. Mangol grows by drinking venom everyday. The young Mangol falls in love with Lachi, a beautiful neighbouring girl. The grandson of the head of the snake-charmers, Sheru also loves Lachi and wants to marry Lachi. He sends some thugs to kill Mangol. Mangol defeats them. But while fighting, his armlet was put off. And at that time the Kalnagini keeps her promise by biting Mangol.
In the next full moon night, there was a change within Mangol. He hears a woman singing in the North Hill and he runs after to that sound. He forgets Lachi, his father and his background. He meets the woman. The woman says she was looking for him for a long time and he is her man. Spellbound Mangol could not respond affirmatively and sleeps down there. Sheru followed Mangol, again to kill him, but after seeing Mangol with another woman in the hill he comes back. He tells everything to Lachi.
Lachi follows Mangol in the next full moon. She also finds spellbound Mangol with a woman singing and dancing in the hill. Mangol could not even recognize Lachi. Rather he comes nearer to Lachi to bite her. At that point, Sheru’s people attacked Mangol. While fighting Mangol bites one of Sheru’s men and the man died immediately. Sheru circulates Mangol is not a man, rather a snake.
This creates existential crisis within Mangol. He expresses to his father that in the full-moon night he forgets everything. He wishes to bite someone or twist someone with his body. Father understands the practice of 12 years is now in vein. He rushes to Sadhu Baba again. He came to know, after one full-moon, Mangol will transform totally into a snake. He needs to go to snake kingdom and must have a boon from the snake king to get rid of it. But it is almost an impossible task.
Mangol starts to make the impossible a possible. In the way he was attacked by a mongoose. The mongoose was sent by Sheru. Mangol was defeated and severely injured. He was survived by the nursing of Chandramoni, the woman singer in the North Hill. Chandramoni is the daughter of a cobra. From the boon of the King Cobra, she can transform herself into human being. She is happy that Mangol is going to be transformed into a cobra very soon and that will help her to get Mangol as the life partner. But Mangol is still a man and he loves Lachi. He requests Chandra to sacrifice and to help him to reach to the snake kingdom. Chandra not only helps him to reach to the snake kingdom to meet the King Cobra, she also danced devotedly in front of the statue of the king to come along. The King Cobra arrives and gives boon to Mangol to remain as a human being.
Back in the village, Sheru forcibly was marrying Lachi. But Mangol reaches there in time. Sheru cries, kill Mangol, he is a snake. But Mangol claims he is now free from venom. He bites on the neck of Lachi and proves he has got a fresh life as human being. The news reaches to Kalnagini. She rushes to bite Mangol. But Chandramoni defeats Kalnagini. Chandramoni sacrifices and Lachi gets Mangol back, now as husband.  
The complex storyline of the film is good enough to attract audience. But it could not add anything to the snake cinema formula set in Bangladeshi film industry in 1980s. The only specialty of the film was the existential crisis of Mangol which was portrayed in the film with care. The song numbers of the film were very popular. The background music by Alam Khan was also fascinating. For a fantasy film, the use of special effect was very poor here. The director of the film Masud Parvez is basically known for making films of action and martial art genre. But the high popularity of snake fantasies in 1980s inspired him to make a snake cinema which was also starred by him (as Mangol and with different name, Sohel Rana). The most interesting part is being a Satyajit Ray-cast actress Babita (internationally famous for Distant Thunder, 1973 by Ray), played the role of Lachi. Leading stars and directors were attracted to snake cinema in 1980s though it is no more popular now. The reason behind the presence of snake in film and other art form in Bangladesh is the myth and environment of ancient Bengal. Once, Bengal was mostly a land of jungle and swamp, so snake was an important character to be concerned about. Moreover since the ancient period, non-Aryan deities like Manasa was more worshipped than Aryan gods in Bengal. Manasa was a Devi of snake. From the middle age, people of East Bengal, now Bangladesh, gradually have turned into Muslims, but in their popular psyche, snake remained an important character as before.                    

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