Main teri dushman… is considered to be one of the most iconic snake dances in Bollywood. Nagina (1986) from which this song has been taken was the biggest hit of that year. And the Sridevi’s acting and dance has a special place in my heart. Circa 2013, Sridevi bagged Filmfare Special Award for her work in Nagina and Mr. India(1987). Rishi Kapoor is a little frightened of snakes, probably after a real snake was made to slither over his arm in one of his earlier films Khel Khel Mein (1975). In the 1980s animation did not have support from computers. The makers of this movie were in a jeopardy, how to take a shot of Rishi Kapoor with a snake. Finally it was decided that the snake would be placed hidden on a wardrobe and Rishi Kapoor would just enter the room for an instant looking for someone. The snake was not in the focus area of the actor. So the scene could be taken easily.
Movie: Nagina is a fantasy produced and directed by late Harmesh Malhotra. The cast includes Rishi Kapoor, Sridevi, Sushma Seth, Prem Chopra and late Amrish Puri.
The name of the movie is Nagina, but the precious stone is not shown throughout this movie and only references are made to it in dialogues.
Rajiv (Rishi Kapoor) is a wealthy land-owner, living in a palatial home with his mother (Sushma Seth). Rajiv’s mother wants him to get married to Vijaya, the only daughter of Thakur Ajay Singh (Prem Chopra). But Rajiv falls in love with Rajni (Sridevi), a poor orphan. Rajiv tells his mother of his intent but she initially refuses to support his decision. When she meets Rajni however, his mother relents.
Rajiv and Rajni get married and life is blissful until Bhairo Nath (Amrish Puri) arrives. Bhairo Nath is a snake-charmer, who is an expert in controlling even dangerous snakes. He tells Rajiv’s mother that Rajni is a shape-shifting poisonous snake, who married Rajiv, only to avenge the death of her husband during Rajiv’s childhood. Bhairo and his disciples play snake dance music to force Rajni to dance for them as a snake. The music has an intoxicating effect on Rajni and she sings and dances to the tune of the song.
Song: Music composed by Lakshmikant Pyarelal and the lyrics are by Anand Bakshi.
The song goes thus, “I am your enemy. You are my enemy. I am a female snake and you are a snake-charmer. Our enmity is present since several births. O God, save us! I am your enemy. You are my enemy. I am a female snake and you are a snake-charmer.”
The song says that snakes and snake-charmers are enemies of each other from eternity. This song is a little different from previous songs on shape-shifting snakes in that previously some songs have considered snake-charmers as lovers of snakes.
The song continues, “I will avenge today’s incident. Don’t tease me or I will bite you. Tantras, mantras and black magic are my play-things. Your pressure won’t work on me. I am a female snake and you are a snake-charmer.”
The girl says, “You are pressurizing me. But that won’t work on me. Tantras, mantras and black magic are nothing in front of me.”
The girl adds, “You are playing your clarinet’s music and have tried to place restrictions on me. I will not be controlled and I will not be cheated. A robber has come in the guise of a saint. I am a female snake and you are a snake-charmer. My story is on everyone’s lips. The one, who is bitten by me, will not ask for water. Everybody will watch the fun. Let us see what happens. You will not see tomorrow’s morn. I am a female snake and you are a snake charmer. Our enmity is present since several births. O God, save us! I am your enemy. You are my enemy. I am a female snake and you are a snake-charmer.”
Video: Cinematography V Durgaprasad.
Sridevi is a fantastic dancer. The dress could have been black with golden thread decorations, which would have been made like a serpent’s body. It would have excelled excellence. But the dress designer and the producer-director have decided this white dress. It is always their choice together with the actor’s suggestions that eventually is used. So we cannot say anything about it.
The bungalow, where the dance is being done is very beautiful. The staircase going up like a serpent, the dim blue light coming from the windows, the chandelier, everything is beautiful. These merge with the walls and are one with it. The reddish brown floor with yellow designs suits the ambiance well.
Sridevi shows the snake’s hiss in a very excellent manner. We will not tire while describing her dancing talent, she is so good. Amrish Puri suits well for the snake-charmer’s role. His dress and make-up are very good. The musical instrument that Amrish Puri uses to control the snake is a type of folk clarinet. One shot, where they show Amrish Puri, with the chandelier behind him, is very good. The floor space has been used very well by the choreographer, Saroj Khan.
Artists: The playback singer is Lata Mangeshkar and the song is lip-synched by Sridevi, while Amrish Puri looks on.
Cultural Influence: Snake dance is a very important item in Bharatanatyam. The dance choreographer has incorporated Bharatanatyam, Kathak and Indian folk dance gestures, steps and mudras. When we watch this song, we feel like dancing. The fact remains that snakes cannot hear and cannot dance to the tune of the folk clarinet!