Movie - 7 Khoon Maaf (Hindi)
Director - Vishal Bhardwaj
Producers - Vishal Bhardwaj, Ronnie Screwvala
Cast - Priyanka Chopra, Naseeruddin Shah, Annu Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, John Abraham, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Vivaan Shah, Aleksandr Dyachenko, Usha Uthup, Harish Khanna
Music - Vishal Bhardwaj
Cinematography - Ranjan Palit
Editor - Sreekar Prasad
Story - Ruskin Bond
Screenplay, Dialogues - Vishal Bhardwaj, Matthew Robbins
Lyrics - Gulzar
Release Date - 18th February 2011
Vishal Bhardwaj had grown to be a master filmmaker with films like Maqbool, Omkara, The Blue Umbrella & Kaminey behind him. So when he announced 7 Khoon Maaf, an adaptation of Ruskin Bond’s short story Susanna’s Seven Husbands, all eyes were on him to see how he would translate that story which had limited cinematic appeal to a big budget Hindi film with such a huge cast. And the bad news is that 7 Khoon Maaf is Vishal’s weakest film to date and is a huge disappointment to fans of the composer turned director.
Designed as a dark comedy, 7 Khoon Maaf tells the story of Susanna who is in search of love and goes wrong each time in choosing a partner. And then, Vishal Bhardwaj spells out episodes in Susanna’s life where she marries, kills her partner and remarries in the most predictable fashion. An impotent army-man, a coke-snorting rockstar, a sadomasochistic poet, a two-timing Russian spy, a lecherous cop and a doctor who has other schemes and an adopted orphan are the men in her life. Each husband is introduced, gets a song or two to show his romance with Susanna, reveals his flaw and then conveniently gets bumped off. On one side, Bhardwaj tells Susanna is a psychopath who would rather kill a dog who is in her way than take another safer route available. And on the other hand, he gives us the impression that Susanna is a lady who is in constant search of true love, but never able to get it. Ultimately, the audience is left confused as to who Susanna really is. And of course, Susanna clearly hasn’t heard of a concept called divorce.
Priyanka Chopra’s performance is inconsistent. She is very good in some scenes and very poor in some other. And most of it has a heavy hangover of what she did in Fashion. She doesn’t look convincing as an ageing lady and the patchy make-up does even more damage. All the male actors have given poorly developed characters with very little screen time dedicated to each of them. Neil Nitin Mukesh is ridiculous, John Abraham is convincing, Irrfan is great, the Russian actor Aleksandr Dyachenko is charming, Annu Kapoor is brilliant and Naseeruddin Shah is wasted in a poorly written role. Vivaan Shah, son of Naseeruddin Shah, making his debut, has perhaps the best written character in the movie and he plays it effortlessly. Harish Khanna as the butler makes a mark. Ruskin Bond, on whose story the film is based, makes an appearance too. Usha Uthup is decent. Konkona Sen Sharma pitches in a delightful cameo.
There are indicators in the form of crises and major events in the country like Operation Bluestar, the Babri Masjid demolition, the nuclear test, Kandahar hijack and 26/11 to indicate which time period the narrative is taking place in. Otherwise, the world Vishal has created in this movie is quite detached from our regular world. He also gives smart references to novels The Seven Wives of Bluebird and Anna Karenina, and even Deewaar (why didnt someone tell the Russian that 'Mere Paas Maa Hai' is Shashi Kapoor's line, not Amitabh Bachchan's). There are dialogues and moments which reminds one of the incredible talent of Bhardwaj, but they are few and far in between. The movie follows a completely predictable narrative which leads to an interesting surreal climax and epilogue, but by then the audience had already lost interest.
Ranjan Palit’s camera keeps us in the dark world of Susanna and Sreekar Prasad’s editing is confusing, reminding one of his work in Raavan. The visual effects are very poor and gimmicky. Good news is that Vishal Bhardwaj doesn’t disappoint as a music composer as he comes up with a fantastic score with great songs such as India's first true-blue rock song O Mama, the chartbuster Darling & the sublime Bekaraan along with lyricist Gulzar. But it is a crime for a composer like Vishal Bhardwaj to create a gem of a song like Tere Liye for a movie and then not include it in the movie. The background score sounds more like Rahman than Bhardwaj.
All in all, 7 Khoon Maaf is a major disappointment coming from one of India’s best filmmakers Vishal Bhardwaj. It is not a bad movie, but it is certainly not a good movie too. Lets hope the maverick filmmaker comes back to form with his next, a film in a more commercial format - the 2 States adaptation with Shahrukh Khan in the lead. What stays with you after 7 Khoon Maaf are the brilliant songs and the striking image of a snow white cat against the backdrop of the snowy peaks in Kashmir.
Rating – 2.5/5