Wednesday, March 2, 2011

7 Khoon Maaf

Vishal Bharadwaj's '7 Khoon Maaf' is an adaptation of 'Susanna's Seven Husbands', a short story by Ruskin Bond. Priyanka Chopra plays Susanna Anna Marie, a woman who is repeatedly let down by the men she marries. But instead of leaving them, she decides to kill them. And that is the problem with the movie. But more on that later. Let's go through the husbands first...

First up is Major Edwin Rodrigues played by Neil Nitin Mukesh. Susanna is barely out of her teens, is a free-spirited woman while he is insanely jealous and possessive. So he's fed to a panther on a night of hunting.

Rocker Jimmy Stetson (John Abraham) is addicted to cocaine. Susanna tries to rid him of his addiction through re-hab, but he continues to smuggle in the drug behind her back. He's given an overdose.

Disillusioned with life, Susanna moves to Kashmir where she falls in love with a dreamy poet Wasiullah Khan (Irrfan Khan) who charms her with his poetry but turns out to be a sadomasochist He's buried alive.

Nicolai Vronski is a Russian spy who courts Susanna with his scholastic Hindi and Bollywood dialogues. She agrees to marry him but soon discovers that he already has a wife in Russia. He is very cleverly sent down a dry well where Susanna rears poisonous snakes. He never makes it out of there. To stifle a police investigation that's bound to happen in the wake of a diplomat's death, Susanna is forced to marry the sex-starved Inspector Keemat Lal (Annu Kapoor) who is soon packed off via an overdose of the "magical blue pill".

Next in line is Dr. Madhusudan Tarafdar (Naseeruddin Shah), a weirdass doctor who treats all illnesses - including a failed attempt at suicide - by mushrooms! He makes the grievous mistake of trying to kill Susanna for her money and is disposed off through a game of Russian Roulette.

Frustrated with life, Susanna sets her house on fire only to get cold feet when the fire reaches her door. She manages to escape but a body is found in the house and is believed to be that of Susanna's. The police want her dead for obvious reasons, and the forensic investigation is carried out by Arun (Vivaan Shah), an orphan who Susanna had adopted and who has an Oedipus Complex vis-a-vis her (and who Susanna too tried to seduce at one point). Complicated, innit?

Anyhow, in an attempt to repay Susanna for her generosity earlier in his life, Arun confirms that the person whose remains have been found in the burnt down house is indeed Susanna. He then goes to Pondicherry looking for her and finds her about to become a bride for the 7th time!!!

Who's the 7th husband...who was killed in place of Susanna...which was the 7th murder? You go find out!

Honestly, I was quite disappointed with the movie. It's still head & shoulder above most of the crap that Bollywood churns out in the name of cinema, but after 'Maqbool' and 'Omkara' one expects a hell of a lot from Vishal Bharadwaj. He has the talent, and until sometime ago he also had the balls to let his talent shine without pandering to the demands of the box office. Based on his last two movies ('Kaminey' & '7 Khoon Maaf') however, one wonders whether he too is giving in to the pressures of commercial cinema.

My main problem with the movie is to do with Priyanka Chopra's character, and given that the movie revolves around her, any problem with her character lets the movie down by default.

For instance, there is no explanation as to why she's drawn to psychotic men in the first place? Take the case of Wasiullah Khan (the poet) - did she not know of his sadomasochism before she married him? And if she did, why did she marry him? Such flaws in characterization make one feel no sympathy for Susanna, and that is the biggest undoing of the movie b/c you're supposed to fsympathize with her.

There's also no explanation for why she must kill her husband when she can leave them. She's no psychopath, not a man hater either. In fact, I'd have loved to see Priyanka Chopra play the role of a psychopath - someone who derives pleasure out of killing people. Or someone who marries men of a certain disposition (jealous, possessive, exploitative, sadist etc.) with the intention of killing them b/c she was terribly wronged by one such man. Or a Mata Hari like character who sleeps with powerful men with an ulterior motive and then kills them. I would have loved to see PC sink her teeth into an out-and-out negative character, 'coz she's got the goods, you know. The movie was screaming out with possibilities, too bad VB decided to take a moralistic path by trying to justify the actions of his protagonist.

I also had a problem with PC's make up. She's supposed to be this gorgeous, sexy woman that men can't stay away from, but she looks hideous in the movie! She is actually made to look worse than she already is. Incredible. And honestly, I don't see the National Award coming PC's way as was hyped. She hardly had much acting to do, thanks to the limitations of her character and the script. She is very mediocre in the movie.

Among the men, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Irrfan Khan & Naseerudin Shah stand out (though I hated Irrfan Khan's look in the movie). Usha Uthup is wasted in the role of Maggi, Susanna's loyal maid who cleans up after Susanna.

And the climax...oh my God, the climax! It's tacky!! You'll know what I mean when you watch the movie.

One of the things that I did like about '7 Khoon Maaf' was the use of historical events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, Babri Masjid Demolition, Kandahar hijacking, 26/11 attacks etc. to denote the period the movie is set in. Hopefully Vishal Bharadwaj will pay more attention to the script the next time he decides to make a movie.


the-mommie said...

ouch! that was scathing. :)

I wasn't too keen on watching the movie to begin with and nothing's changed now that I've read your review. I'm frankly not a huge fan of PCs. She's better than most and hats off to her for carving a niche for herself in a very closed industry; but she's a bit over-rated in my mind.

Btw! 'Oedipus complex' - had to go do a wiki on it! I've now been educated! :D

Scarlett said...

@The Mommie - The movie is still worth watching, if you're into dark movies. It's very grim & even disturbing at certain points (if you're a woman). PC's acting is very mediocre.

You did not know 'Oedipus Complex'??? How come? I think I learnt it in school!!

the-mommie said...

nope. no such info in school....

Scarlett said...

@The Mommie - LOL. Do you know 'penis envy'? If not, go look it up...they go hand in hand :)

the-mommie said...

heheh! yup i do now. i was in an all girls convent school all my life - small wonder NONE of this was discussed!

mêlée said...

first of all, it felt GOOD to see a post from you. I was wondering where have you been!
and yes, the movie is as you have described...makes me think I should never go by names...Ravana from Manirathnam, this from VB and so on.

Moonshine said...

I still want to watch this movie - though am unable to find company for it!! The only reason is Vishal Bharadwaj!! The same is the case with Mani Ratnam.. I have to have to watch their movies - I feel theirs will be the only movies worth waiting for!!

Supernova said...

Nice to have you back! :)
And yes, 7 Khoon Maaf was a letdown...your review echoed some things I had felt @

The knife said...

On the plus side it made you blog again

Scarlett said...

@Melee - Work's been very hectic & I've been traveling constantly, so haven't had the time to blog. I think people like Mani Ratnam, VB etc. are going through a phase. I feel they're getting so caught up in the entire cinema/aethetics/imagery/technique aspect of making a movie that they're losing sight of the bigger picture - that a movie should entertain.

@Mommie - Hey, I went to an all girls convent school too. I think we read about it as part of one of the Greek tragedies we read in school.

@Moonshine - It's totally worth watching for the kind of cinema it is, if not the story.

@Supernova - Nice review :)

@Knife - Can't keep me away from this space for long :)

muddleglum said...

Here in the U.S., we have heard a great deal of how the women of India are killed off by their parents via abortion and by their husbands later in life.

Is this vastly overrated or untrue?

If it is significantly true, does it enter as an ironic counterpoint in the movie? Is the movie talking about that sub rosa?

Glad you had time to blog. Or should I say I'm glad you got your ire at the movie worked off through the blog? Either way, I join with the other commentators on being glad.

Anonymous said...

@Scarlett - Your views echo mine :) lovely review and nice to see 3 back to back posts after so long.
@Muddlegum - I guess Scarlett missed your comment, so being an Indian I will reply to your query. Yes female foetuses are aborted and women are subjected to abuse, but probably not to the extent you read about in The States. Such practices are more prevalent in certain parts of India not everywhere. Things have changed a great deal and more and more women are getting educated and working at top positions. In cities and even in smaller towns the poorer families are educating their girl child. Telling this from my experience in Mumbai where my maid constantly tells me that she wants her daughters to graduate and make it big in life and not end up cleaning and washing. Hope there will be a day when such atrocities will come to an end. About your query, no the movie has got nothing to do about the issue :)

muddleglum said...

Thank you, Anonymous,

What you say makes a lot of sense. I appreciate the information.