Whenever I think Nagin, automatically my thoughts run to Sridevi. Her big bold eyes screamed venom and revenge. More than anything, her dancing skills made her by far the most incredible she-snake in Hindi cinema. Cut to 2010 and there is a new nagina in town. No more is she fully cladded and traditional. No siree. She is today’s nagin: sexy, hot and sultry. And playing this new age nagin is none other than Mallika Sherawat. In Jennifer Lynch’s Hisss, a rather American take on an Indian folklore, it is Sherawat who plays the lead role of the nagin. The director has claimed that while the film is American in its execution, it is Indian at heart. And what irked me or rather confused me, was whether the film is even considered Bollywood. Is it? I’m not sure but since its stars a whole range of Bollywood stars, we will go ahead and consider it worthy of a review.
George States (Jeff Doucette), a vindictive American is told he is dying of cancer and immediately is told of an icchadari serpentine (Mallika Sherawat) who can save his life. He kidnaps her male foil in hopes that she will come in search of him at which time, he would make her barter her naagmani in exchange for her male cobra. She takes on human form as she goes out in pursuit of her love. Then there is a cop (Irrfan Khan) and his dismissed wife (Divya Dutta).
And that is basically the plot of Hisss. Where do I begin with the film? Do not for a minute believe that this film is worthy of any accolades or praise even. Jennifer Lynch is known for her thriller/horror genre but with Hisss she basically takes the mickey out of herself. She went on about the special effects post the release of Hisss but there is hardly anything interesting about them. Note to Jennifer Lynch: A lesson in special effects = Robot. And you’re from Hollywood but the special effects of a C grade film look tacky in Hisss. In fact, they look cheap and add no sense of excitement to the film. Moreover the script of the film is insanely helter-skelter. In one shot she’s a snake, no wait, she’s human, no wait a snake again. And what was up with the unnecessary sleaze fest that is basically Hisss. Mallika in both snake and human forms repels any sense of clothes. It’s like sharam and haiya do not exist. Then Irrfan and Divya have an unneeded make out scene which makes you uncomfortable if anything.
As for performances, well, I guess if you’re a Mallika fan, then a full film dedicated to her is your dream film. But in all honesty, Mallika doesn’t do much except expose, scowl, hisss and yet looks emotionless. What she does best is change out of her Snake skin into some human clothing, change her eye colors ala lenses until she is finally in her birthday suit. She speaks a line… okay two. But that is it. Lord knows what the likes of Irrfan Khan and Divya Dutta are even doing in a film like Hisss. With such talent, both these powerhouses are completely lost in a film like Hisss where they are have no scope to perform because of its loose script. Jeff Doucette is wasted in a film like Hisss. The veteran actor is perhaps the only reason to watch Hisss.
There is nothing exciting or fun about Hisss. It doesn’t compare to any of the of old school versions in Bollywood and more importantly, should not be compared to them. If you’re looking for a mythical film to watch, catch Sridevi’s nagin; at least knowing the film was made back in 1986 provides some solace. Hisss is plain unexplainable and unwatchable.