Goddess, also known as Devi, is a Bollywood mishmash of musical, romance and supernatural thriller. It doesn't work terribly well in any of these aspects, but is inoffensive, light hearted and mildly enjoyable.
The story is complex and involved, with a run time of over two hours. It begins with a young woman named Sunita performing rites in honor of the snake goddess Devi, who is the patron of her family. Her father Singh sees a cobra (which unbeknownst to him is the goddess Devi) trapped in a ring of fire, which a devil has placed around her to kill her. Singh jumps into the ring of fire and rescues the snake / goddess, and is burned to death as a result. This causes more problems for Sunita than just grief, since her wicked and grasping aunts and uncles now harass and abuse her constantly while squandering her father's money.
Devi, played by Prima, is upset that Singh has sacrificed himself for her, and thus put his daughter in such a bad spot. She determines to take on human form and help young Sunita to a better life. To this end, she insinuates herself into the household of two brothers, Vijay and Ranjit, whose family has been feuding with Sunita's family. Sunita has been engaged to Ranjit from childhood, but things have been put on hold due to the feud. She arranges a meeting between Ranjit and Sunita when Sunita goes to worship at a snake pit on Ranjit's land. An Auspicious start to any romance, surely.
As Sunita and Ranjit's romance progresses, Devi finds herself falling in love with Vijay, played by Shiju. Vijay himself declares his love for Devi almost constantly, trying to win her heart. Devi is in an awkward position, since she will eventually have to return to wherever it is that snake gods come from, not to mention that the devil Dantra (who, in case you were wondering, is a giant black man who sometimes has magma legs, and can impersonate anyone he pleases) has threatened to ruin Sunita's life to avenge himself on Devi.
Scattered all through the film are musical numbers that often bear little relation to the story at hand, perhaps only to spend five minutes on a snowy mountain side showing us how much two characters love each other through song. The music is catchy and fun to listen to, if you have no objections to Indian popular music. Also present are lots of magic, supernatural battles, curses, charms, evil schemes and comeuppance for the wicked. All in all, it is a dizzying hodgepodge of styles and themes. Much respect is given to the gods, and paying them proper respect is vital to the plot. At the same time the film is larded with broad humor, physical comedy and sly winks to the audience.
Goddess is enjoyable enough. The story flows along and, though complex, is easy to understand and follow. The characters are all likeable, and played with verve, if not with subtlety and restraint. Subtlety and restraint were clearly not what the filmmakers were going for. A sense of everyone involved throwing caution to the wind and leaping into the project with gusto is apparent from the first scene. The villains are villainous, the heroes are heroic, the women are beautiful and the men are handsome. Nothing is done in half measures. The special effects are laughable in their simplicity, but they work in context. The giant, snake themed space craft on which Devi's father, the snake god, comes to earth is particularly silly. Having said this, Goddess does suffer from being over long. It clocks in at around two hours and twenty minutes, and it can feel like a chore to slog through to the end. The film is simply not weighty enough to justify such a long run time. Thirty minutes could easily have been cut with little lost in the way of entertainment, but this would probably conflict with the full throated enthusiasm of the film's producers. Goddess is light entertainment, inoffensive and mildly fun, but is not worth more than a casual rental.
The image is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen enhanced. It is generally acceptable, but has some issues. Dust, scratches and other artifacts are visible throughout. This is not distracting for the most part, but is almost constantly visible. There is also a lot of choppy editing, with scenes cutting over abruptly or seeming to end without warning. Other than that, the colors are bright, which shows off the numerous flashy costumes and involved set pieces. The image is not murky or cloudy, and the action is clearly visible during night scenes.
The sound is Dolby digital 5.1 channel, but is not great. The dialogue and music are clear and easily audible, but there is a slight hiss underlying everything. This is not audible during the musical numbers or dialogue heavy scenes, but can be clearly detected in quiet moments. The sound is spread out over all the channels, and the LFE channel is not detectibly utilized. The audio is in Hindi with no alternate language tracks, and subtitles are available in English only.
Extras are scanty on the Goddess disc. There are three trailers for the film itself, and several previews for unrelated films. This would have been an excellent opportunity to give western viewers some information and insight into Bollywood films, but it was not taken.
Goddess is lighthearted and fun, with truly impressive musical numbers and genuinely likeable characters and accessible humor. However, its excessive length makes it difficult to get through in one sitting. The light laughs and quickly moving plot are not enough to engage the viewer for the two plus hours of the film. Goddess constitutes a rental opportunity for those looking for an introduction to Bollywood cinema, and all the lavish costumes, wacky plots, singing, dancing and thrills that it entails. For more than that, it is not recommended.