Friday, February 18, 2011

7 Khoon Maaf

7 Khoon Maaf
Director: Vishal Bharadwaj
Starring: Priyanka Chopra, Naseeruddin Shah, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Annu Kapoor, John Abraham, Vivaan Shah, Konkona Sen Sharma, Aleksandr Dyachenko, Irrfan Khan
Stars: ***

Nothing to kill for

Vishal Bhardwaj's film has always been something to look forward to. From Makdee to The Blue Umbrella and Maqbool to Omkaara, the filmmaker's works have stood out for their cinematic richness, in terms of story-telling, treatment and music. At least three of his five films so far have been literary adaptations, two of them derived from Shakespeare, while The Blue Umbrella was adapted from Ruskin Bond's utterly poignant and beautiful short story. Though Maqbool and Omkaara were fine efforts, there were critics who felt that Bhardwaj did a literal reading of the Bard's texts, without uncovering their deeper layers. But the music, the texture and the performances more than made up for some of the complexity in the classics that the director may have missed out on.

But this literal reading becomes a problem in 7 Khoon Maaf. The premise of a young woman always craving for love and being disappointed each time in marriage, and ultimately killing her husbands, is an intriguing concept. However, for all its thrill-value, the story is never challenging or provocative. And with a distinct lack of depth and layering, the theme in fact falls a bit flat.

Again, the story is a literary adaptation of Ruskin Bond's short story, Susanna's Seven Husbands (the septuagenarian also features in a guest appearance in the film), where the author was requested to expand upon the original story by fleshing out each episode.

The film begins with a young Susanna (Priyanka Chopra), who grows up in a wealthy Christian household with a loyal governess (Usha Uthup, used cheaply) and a couple of other servants. She takes under her wing a cute boy, who grows up to be the narrator of the film (Vivaan Shah). After the death of her parents, Susanna honours her father's last wish and marries an Army officer (Neil Nitin Mukesh). Having lost a limp, she discovers that her husband is a cruel, possessive and violent man. Susanna kills him in what appears to others as a freak incident. Then comes husband number 2, John Abraham, a rocker, who turns out to be a drug addict. The others prove to have other extreme problems, which forces her to kill each of them.

The film stays more or less engaging throughout, and the curiosity about what could possibly go wrong with the next husband is what sustains the narrative. Also, veteran actors like Irrfan Khan, Anu Kapoor and Naseeruddin Shah (delightful in pitch perfect Bengali accent) give solid performances in their respective sequences, frequently infusing life into a story-line that starts turning dull and pointless. The best written and most chilling part is for Neil Nitin Mukesh, who does an adequate job of it. But John Abraham disappoints in a role that is the most unconvincing of the lot. The section where Susanna falls in love with a Russian is also one of the tamer bits.

The disappointment in 7 Khoon Maaf is that in spite of its different theme, and some interesting characters, it never scratches much below the surface to throw any fresh insights on human behaviour or relationships. All the husbands have serious problems, which leaves Susanna with no option but to kill them. This makes the film quite regular, with standard situations.
Also, one would think that 7 Khoon Maaf would be a milestone for Priyanka, given that she gets to play a character from age 20 to 50 plus. Unexpectedly, Susanna's is a much under-written character, and you never really get into her head. Clearly, she has no special quality or allure, and is in fact, quite ordinary and meek. It is the husbands who take centre-stage, and Priyanka is left with a role that never really connects at any point.

Bhardwaj justifies all her killings by presenting her as the victim, thereby making it quite a shrill and straightforward film. There are ironical aspects to some of the characters (like Irrfan), but by and large, this is a less edgy, and not a very emotionally involving film.

He is especially unsuccessful in creating a wholesome character with Susanna. Think Being Julia or Scarlet O Hara, and the female combination of evil and manipulation, charm and impishness, spunk and spirit they represent. This one is a far cry from any of that, and a big missed opportunity in that regard. In stead of hard-core reasons to kill a man, it would have been so much fun if Bharadwaj would have subverted that idea by showing that any reason can be good enough to kill a husband!


Anonymous rooney said...

"Unexpectedly, Susanna's is a much under-written character, and you never really get into her head. Clearly, she has no special quality or allure, and is in fact, quite ordinary and meek. It is the husbands who take centre-stage, and Priyanka is left with a role that never really connects at any point. "

wow, thats surprising i was expecting a half evil character atleast with oomp and ada's and sexual currents... atleast..

" Think Being Julia or Scarlet O Hara, and the female combination of evil and manipulation, charm and impishness, spunk and spirit they represent. "

sorry dont know them but i get what u meant to say...

anyways would like to catch this at this week, but lots of work and studies... but i was curious till i read above :(

ps- btw u thought something about that book?

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