Now this is what I call a giant monster!
It towers so far out of the atmosphere that meteors and planets revolve around its heads (though lack of oxygen proves no hindrance to its fire-breathing, I notice).
And when it chomps on the bad guy, he can definitely consider himself chomped.
The gargantuan multi-headed cobra is a manifestation of a female naga, Devi, granted the power of the Goddess in order to right a wrong. As a climax — filled with giant monster spectacle, song, superb clothes and romance — it really gives the story its own unique pizazz.
Assigning this film — Devi (India-1999; dir. Kodi Ramakrishna) — to a genre in the traditional Western sense isn’t easy and is probably irrelevant anyway. It veers wildly between fantasy, romance, farce, horror and supernatural mayhem, often so abruptly pursuing its own narrative logic that it appears to have little of the latter at all. You have to pay attention; its sudden cuts and abrupt scene changes aren’t tolerant of the slow-witted.
The DVD cover brands Devi “a special effects film”.
While it is certainly full of special effects and was considered “big-budget” for Bollywood, everything is relative. In fact, apart from occasional supernatural spectacle, the scenario keeps its focus domestic and confined to a small group of people; it’s rather like a romantic comedy, with horror elements and a thriller plotline thrown in. Much of it is pure romance, Hindi-style, and the SFX, while effective enough, are hardly state-of-the-art, even for 1999.
Still, it’s hard to complain when the clouds boil and the Snake God descends through them in a huge metallic “mothership” molded into the form of intertwined serpents (or something like that… it’s hard to say). Or when the evil snake demon Dantra towers above the heroine, his lower body a seething cascade of superimposed fire, and declaims on the inevitability of fate. These scenes, and the spectacular climax, are enough to justify the DVD’s tagline.
Besides that, actress Prema as Devi is gorgeous, as her divine character struggles to pay back a debt by manipulating time and defying fate and the “rules” of the Snake Realm — veering, like the plot, between character qualities that could be at odds with each other, except she somehow manages to encapsulate ditzy girlishness and divine authority with such aplomb that the mishmash nature of it all becomes part of the film’s bizarre appeal. Even her wardrobe changes illogically between leaving one room and entering the next, but it hardly matters; Prema’s spectacular array of dresses would be more important than conventional logic for most of the film’s audience, no doubt… and anyway she’s a goddess… She can do pretty much what she likes.
The film was a huge success in its home country, its mix of romantic comedy, Bollywood fantasy and traditional spirituality a winning formula. If it strikes Western sensibilities as rather chaotic, that’s our problem.