director: Nandlal JaswantlalNagin
is centered around two tribes--the Ragi and the Nagi--whose livelihood depends upon trading and selling snake venom. due to a perceived slight in the past, the two tribes share an acrimonious relationship, to say the least.
the action begins fairly quickly, as the film opens with the Ragi tribe discovering a Nagi spy in their midst. the chief’s son, Sanatan (Pradeep), shoots the enemy with an arrow. when the Nagi discover this, Mala (Vyjaya), the chieftain’s daughter, vows to avenge the death by personally taking that of Sanatan. while hunting for him in the jungle, she hears the melodious sound of a bin (pungi)--the snake charmer’s instrument--and is compelled to dance and sing her way to the music’s source: Sanatan.
the Romeo and Juliet plotline which follows is fairly light on story--one of the few subplots has Jeevan playing a standard villain* determined to marry Mala--but the lead performances and numerous songs compensate. this soundtrack was a huge success for its composer, Hemant Kumar, and the famous bin music which leads into ‘Man Dole Mera Tan Dole’ was played--on a new instrument, the claviolin--by Kalyanji, before he and his brother became the famous music director duo of Kalyanji-Anandji.
the film is in B&W except for the rather fantastical ending:
Vyjayanthimala talks about the shooting of this film in her memoir. not surprisingly, working around snakes didn’t exactly thrill her. one anecdote which stood out to me was her retelling how the director called her Idli
on set due to her weight. Pradeep--a Bengali--was christened Rasgulla
. so even in the 1950s, BW actors faced pressure to meet a certain standard.
*Jeevan plays a chieftain of another tribe which seems to have been oddly influenced by Native American stereotypes/film depictions; he greets everyone with a “how” and loves wearing a headdress (with sunglasses
) which resembles a Plains war bonnet.