Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Punnami Naagu (1980) Dir. Rajasekhar

In celebration of Naga Panchami a bunch of Indian Film bloggers are discussing their favorite snake movies. Here is a link to the blogs participating and another link to a thread on snake movies at the BollyWhat? Forum. Welcome to the Fessssstival!

I must confess, although I am a huge fan of snakes (I even own a 4 ft long cornsnake named Skittles), I had not watched any Nagin movies, other than Anaganaga O Deerudu. And with my desire to get more Chiranjeevi movies under my belt, I settled on the 1980 movie Punnami Naagu. What a wonderful treat it was too! Besides snakes and Chiranjeevi this movie had a menagerie of animal charactors that played key roles. There was an elephant, a monkey, a bull, a mongoose, and not to forget the brief but ill fated appearance of a chicken.  Plus an awesome snake dance item number.  The DVD I rented from NJMTV.com did not have subtitles but I managed ok.
    The movie starts with a man interupting a snakecharmer that is accosting a women. The snake charmer sends a cobra to bite the man. The man dies and leaves behind a  young son who is then cared for by the village head and comforted by an Elephant. Yep the elephant even gets free reign of the house!

At the same time a the snakecharmer's sister is pregnant and about to give birth.  She is alone in the woods and her pet monkey comes to her rescue. He first hides her from prying eyes (modesty being the most important thing after all), before geting help and then fetching water.
The little girl that is born becomes a life long friend of the Monkey and likewise the boy grows into a man with his elephant always at his side. Narasimha Raju plays Raju and the girl Laxmi is played by Rati Agnihotri. They meet and fall in love and both the elephant and the monkey get very involved as match makers, passing notes and cleverly playing tricks to bring the two love birds together.

Meanwhile Chiranjeevi plays Laxmi's cousin, Naagulu and is the son of the snakecharmer.  He, his Father, his Aunt and Laxmi all live together in the village.

One day Naagulu rescues Menaka, played by Madhavi, who is being attacked by a bull. Of course they fall in love. Menaka happens to be the adopted sister of Raju.

Unbeknownst to Naagulu, his father the snake charmer has been feeding him snake venom his whole life in order to make him immune to the bite of a cobra, an occupational hazard for snake charmers no doubt.
Enter the brief and ill-fated appearance of a chicken, who wanders in and eats the poisoned food. RIP Ms. Chicken.
Now comes the problem...one night Naagulu becomes desturbed by a snake dance he hears being played in the village.  This is an awesome snake dance! I loved her sequined body suit.  I couldn't find it on Youtube so you'll just have to imagine it from this screencap.
For reasons I couldn't figure out because of the lack of subs Naagulu's father goes to the local Snake anthill where the villagers leave offerrings for the cobra that resides there and plays his flute to draw out a baby snake. And then while the Mom  cobra is watching he steps on it and kills it.  I found this scene disturbing because it looked to me like the snake charmer was really squishing a live snake with his foot..poor baby!
The cobra comes slithers into the snake charmer's home and just when it strikes at the snake charmers foot to get it's revenge, Naagulu rolls over in his sleep and get s bit instead! But he doesn't die!

Instead, whenever the moon is full he goes out searching for a female to mate with.  You know that's what he wants to do because they show two snakes intertwined writhing around. Unfortunetly the first female Naagulu seeks out is his love Menaka.
Naagulu is overcome with grief when he learns that Menaka is dead.  At the same time his Father is on his death bed because the Cobra finally got him. Now Naagulu finds out what his Father had done and he is in shock. He starts digging through his father's papers to find a remedy.
Raju becomes suspicious of Menaka's death and he and Naagulu have a series of altercations. It was a bit weird to see Raju, who does not look like a tough guy at all, beat up Megastar, but Chiru got revenge by trying to bite him! Infact I loved it best when Naagulu was in snake mode, he'd get this look in his eyes and periodically dart his tongue in and out of his mouth.  Infact I kinda wondered why the girls he killed didn't notice this unusual behavior and refuse to go off into the night with him.
Naagulu's next victim was an unsuspecting school teacher. She shows up asking for directions at a tea kiosk while Naagulu is there pondering his fate.  I just loved her big red daisy print sari.
But you would think with those big glasses that she would be able to see that there was really a snake sitting there.
With all these dead girls showing up Raju begins suspecting Naagulu more and more and well, Naagulu has other things to worry about.
There are a series of events instigated by Naagulu that put Raju and the elephant at risk. But don't worry, the monkey gets his revenge by intercepting Naagulu at his next victim, with a well timed Mongoose in a basket.

Snakes do NOT like Mongeese and Naagulu is no exception.

This was my favorite scene in the whole movie. I just want to know who had the job of repeatedly throwing a live mongoose at Chiranjeevi's head? I wonder how many takes it took to get just the right reaction?
The movie had a comedy track involving some fake snake charmers and a village girl. She had a cool song and dance number I quite enjoyed as well. I couldn't find the song but I did find this awesome trailer.

Yay! My first Snake movie and a Chiru one at that!

ETA: The ladies over at CinemaChaat found the video of the snake song and did an awesome post on this movie as well. Check it out here


  1. I agree that the scene with the baby snake was distressing. I hope it wasn't really killed.

    Kudos on the excellent screencap of Naagalu pulling the skin off of his face!

  2. Thanks Liz! It was a fun movie and a fun fesssstival!

  3. Where can you find these movies to buy them please? This one sounds really interesting.

  4. whene rcan i find the full movie

  5. I believe I found it at www.njmtv.com You Have to be in the US to rent/buy from them


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