Even before walking in to watch 7 Khoon Maaf, I was done with Priyanka Chopra. It’s been Piggy Chops overload in the last year. I mean she’s been E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E. If she’s not in every publication, then she’s promoting a film, hosting a television show or creating hungama vis-à-vis her relationship with Shahid Kapoor. Too much P.C. However, I can’t say that about Vishal Bhardwaj. I can’t get enough of the ace director whose films never fail to excite and entice.
His current offering included Priyanka as Susanna who is out to find true love. And she does, 7 times over. With Vishal Bhardwaj’s unique style and understanding of cinema, it really isn’t a surprise that the film looked rather dark and grim; very pertinent of Bhardwaj’s style. In true B-style (that’s Bhardwaj style), the film is based and adapted from a book. This time it is Ruskin Bond’s, “Susanna’s Seven Husbands.” In the past, there isn’t a single film of his that didn’t wow me. Would 7 Khoon Maaf do the same?
Susanna Anna-Marie Johannes (Priyanka Chopra) is looking for love. She first meets an Army Major Edwin Rodrigues (Neil Nitin Mukesh) who is killed because of his possessive nature and the amount of verbal abuse he throws her way. Next, she meets singer Jimmy Stetson (John Abraham) who Susanna believes is the real man of her dream. However, as success becomes a major part of his life, he turns to other women and drugs. After trying to “fix” him, she finally realizes he is a lost cause and thus, lets him die via a heroin overdose. A poet, Musafir, (Irrfan Khan) plays hubby number three for Susanna. But while he speaks beautiful words by day, he is a wife-beater by night. Unable to bear the pain anymore, she kills him and buries him in the snow. Nicolai Vronske (Aleksandr Dyachenko) is the next man to woo Susanna. The Russian undercover spy is slaughtered by Susanna when she finds out of another wife and kids. He is bitten by a snake; Susanna’s pet snake that is. Susanna finds herself slowly but surely leaning towards insanity at this point but is still in search of true love. Keemat Lal (Annu Kapoor) comes along and saves Susanna from facing any punishment for her crimes and thus, Susanna believes she has found her man. However, his overuse of Viagra gives Susanna yet another reason to murder him. She then meets Dr. Modhusudhon Tarafdar (Nasseruddin Shah). The doctor is actually out to kill her and after failing a number of times, it is then that Susanna does the same to him. Last but not least, the seventh and last husband Susanna finds is the one which finally gives her the ultimate happiness.
Vishal Bhardwajs’ film has one major major problem: it’s repetitive. After a while, the plot doesn’t engage anymore and you are waiting with abated (read: boring) breath for husbands 3 and onwards to just plain die. The characterization of Susanna is beyond understanding. Why is so desperate to find love that she is willing to put herself through a number of men who individually treat her worst than the next? I’m not sure what Vishal’s reasoning was but it never came through in the script. And why isn’t she ever caught? A woman who has 6 husbands who all “mysteriously” die is one the feds would jump on. Yet another illogical part to the film. What works for the film? Well every scene screams Vishal Bhardwaj. The sights and frames are all incredibly beautiful. The transition of time too is interesting as we see Susanna age along with real-time events that did occur. As a director, Vishal excels in his execution.
As for Priyanka Chopra, well the actress basically needs to take a break. Her enactment of Susanna was for the most part, over the top. This idea of changing a number of avatars in a film is now seriously boring. What’s Your Rashee anyone? However, with Priyanka it’s really the same thing over and over again. The same smile, the same over acting and so on. Either she takes a break and comes back with something different or she can kiss her career goodbye. Versatility is a required trait in the industry and Priyanka is headed in the opposite direction. The rest of the cast does well. But it’s Irrfan, Neil, Naseer, Annu and Vivaan Shah, who is thenarrator of the film who rise above the rest.
The music, thankfully, is a high part of the film and is used superbly throughout the film.
This unfortunately, is a disappointing giving from the Vishal Bhardwaj house. For the most part 7 Khoon Maaf fails to live up to the otherwise exquisite and honestly different genre of films that Vishal always tends to throw our way. For a director who has promised to be different, this is awfully lackluster and disengaging. You can’t help but question if, in fact, Bhardwaj has lost the spark he once possessed because this film cannot ask for maafi from us.