Film: Hisss
Director: Jennifer Lynch
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Mallika Sherawat, Divya Dutta
Rating: Poor

Agnibho Gangopadhyay

 
Portraying India in an exotic way, specially in the West (literature, painting, film, play), is a practise with a long history. Hisss, an Indo-American film based on a myth of an Indian nagin (snake-goddess), because of its premise, could have been thought to belong to one of these categories. But after watching the film, one would realise that this film demands a new pejorative category, for it is so bad that it dodges any attempt of comparative taxonomy.
The film claims that the belief in a snake transforming into human form to take revenge on some miscreant or generally on a society that lacks respect for divine moral order, has been a dominant theme in Indian history. And the symbolic misdemeanor in this case, is separating the male snake from the female one. Men do that because the female snake possesses the nagmani (a precious stone) that can confer immortality to them, and get punished every time. In this facile take on myths, the makers remain ignorant about the fact that myths had complex functions in pre-modern and modern societies. Like in this case, conservation of nature is an important strand. But the film concentrates on this Indian myth as a means to decode the punitive goddess. 
In present day India, the villain or offender is a psychopathic American trying to cure his brain cancer using nagmani. He captures the male snake to lure his female partner. This unleashes Mallika Sherawat from within the female snake, who inexplicably slithers around a city adjoining the forest, naked and semi-naked, before she ultimately avenges the capture and ultimate death of her partner.
In the city Mallika is part an avenger, part a moral guardian and part the wish-fulfilling Goddess — in short a variant of serial killer. Sherawat carries this dialogue-less role with astounding expressionlessness, barring lip-syncing for the horrible cacophony that was meant to be her scream. She is neither convincing as a femme fatale, nor as the vulnerable nature goddess.
However the award for the worst bit of acting would go to Jeff Douchette, who plays the villain with preposterous excess and ludicrous gesticulation. Uneasily intertwined in this sick narrative is the story of an urban family, that of a cop, played by Irrfan Khan. Irrfan along with Divya Dutta playing his wife, Laxmi Bai as his cranky mother-in-law and Raman Trikha as his good-hearted friend are the sole redeeming aspect of this film. But even they look ridiculous amidst the ongoing absurdity.
The special effects and make-up make your stomach churn a bit, but fail to send a chill down your spine.
This film is a dishonest quest, then. The director Jennifer Lynch fails to capture the ‘real’ cultural sensibilities, while her film is extremely shoddy on the craft and execution front.
Do not be a part of this Hissstoric blunder.

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