Chalk up an absolute winner for the Vishal Bhardwaj-Priyanka Chopra team. They make a coherent vision out of an inconceivable marital crises.
How do you make sense of a woman who's an incorrigible potentially-loathsome serial spouse-killer who when challenged about her weird passion for changing husbands by divine decree rather than the law of the land, turns around and says, "This heart of mine, it's to blame." Wicked laughter follows. And dammit, we are amused!
How does one make head or 'tale' of such a woman? Well, the first thing a director with a canny sense and sensibility does is sign Priyanka Chopra to play the wretchedly unfulfilled, genetically incomplete woman, a living, throbbing warning against the institution of marriage!
Priyanka, not for the first time, proves she is leagues ahead of all competition. She approaches this strange and sensual creature of the night from the outside and then quietly makes inroads into the woman's heart and soul. We can actually see the character's snarled inner-world on Priyanka's face! We don't even know when and how she does it. Priyanka is that kind of a player.
Vishal Bharadwaj has earlier made films about gangs and gangsterism. Every time the dark brooding atmospheric surface seemed to suggest a life of sinister suppressions. Those unspoken, intangible thoughts and visions that often guide a human being to his or her doom are outlined in "7 Khoon Maaf" with supreme poetic elegance.
This is Bhardwaj's most fluidly-narrated film to date. Of course, having Gulzar on board helps. He pens Urdu poetry for Irrfan Khan and rock poetry for John Abraham. For Priyanka poetry is not needed. She creates a kind of indecipherable poetic statement for her deeply dysfunctional character who kills 6 husbands and moves to the 7th at the end of the film with the profound satirical grief of a woman who has discovered that this world has no true love to offer her.
True love...ah! Now that's an idea. At heart Vishal's dark elegiac film is about the search for true love. The relationship that Sussanna (Priyanka) forms with a young boy(Vivaan Shah) as she goes from one husband to another remains at the core of the film. In a macabre subversion of the almost-pure love that Susanna shares with Vivaan's character, at one point in the narration she tries to seduce the boy who's almost like a son. It's a dark ugly moment, almost repugnant in its incestuous resonances but in keeping with the character's insatiable appetite for destruction.
Vishal Bhardwaj brings to the storyboard a deep sense of tragic grandeur even as Susanna slips from self-gratification to delusional spirituality.
Priyanka Chopra has already proved herself way ahead of her contemporaries in her earlier works notably "Fashion" and "What's Your Raashee". In "7 Khoon Maaf" she moves to another level, displaying a range of emotions and age-changes (minus prosthetics) that one last saw in Shabana Azmi's performances.
Priyanka's sequences with Irrfan Khan (playing a gentle poet who transforms into a sexual pervert in bed) are stuff poetic nightmares are made of. We can clearly see the cinematographer (Ranjan Palit) is not in love with the actress, but the character. His camera searches for intransigent images in Susanna's life, even as Priyanka's quest for the character's core takes her into areas of self-expression that are far beyond the reach of cinema acting as we know it.
A. Sreekar Prasad edits the life of Susanna with a surety that, alas,the character never comes close to achieving in her dealings with the opposite sex. Sreekar creates a symphonic seamless movement from one husband to another, sometimes joining segments in Susanna's life with visuals that would otherwise seem incompatible.
The husbands are all played by actors who have no qualms in stripping away their vanity to become the kind of suave but duplicitous untrustworthy spouses who cheat and betray for the sake of the opposite emotion to love. Irrfan Khan as a wolf in poet's clothing, Naseeruddin Shah as the affable old Bengali dietician (his Bengali accent is more dead-on than any true-blue Bengalis) and John Abraham as a stereotypical rock musician gone to poppy-seed, are pitch-perfect in their creating a drama of the callous for Priyanka's character.
But it's Neil Nitin Mukesh as her first legless army-man husband whose display of clenched menace jolts you.
As a storyteller Vishal Bhardwaj has never been more in command of his language. He punctuates Susanna's story with bouts of unexpected humour and poetry. Providentially the murders are committed in ways that appear more humorous than savage. And that's both a good and a bad thing.
The narrative shows a rare understanding of the gender dynamics and the sexual tensions between men and women. Priyanka Chopra's interaction with the unctuous and closet-horny police officer Anu Kapoor delectably illustrates the fable of the Temptress & The Besotted. And by the way Viagara never seemed funnier.
Priyanka Chopra goes from husband-to-husband with a mocking sigh of resigned surrender. She is not a victim. But neither is she the hero of the bizarre web of destruction and delusion that her character weaves around her.
1. Anupama Chopra, Consulting Editor, Films from NDTV: 2.5/5 For me, 7 Khoon Maaf was a disappointment ... NDTV Complete review
2. Taran Adarsh from Bollywood Hungama: 3/5 7 KHOON MAAF is a dark film that has its share of positives and negatives. However, the film will meet with diverse reactions - some will fancy it, while some will abhor it ... Bollywood Hungama Complete review
3. Komal Nahta from ETC & Koimoi.com: 1.5/5 7 Khoon Maaf alright… but will the audience pardon Vishal Bhardwaj? Not likely ... Koimoi Complete review
4. Nikhat Kazmi from India Times, Times of India: 4/5 Serious, sensitive and stirring, 7 Khoon Maaf is a whole new cinematic experience ... Times of India Complete review
For all those of you who had watched the critically and commercially acclaimed Vishal Bhardwaj’s ‘Kaminey’ and ‘Ishqiya’ and thoroughly enjoyed, it will not be easy to understand the route of his latest jaunt ‘7 Khoon Maaf’.
The master craftsmen, who’s always known for his unconventional intense films, seems to have created a mediocre fare in his new melodramatic, dark comedy film ‘7 Khoon Maaf’.
This Ruskin Bond story’s adaptation smartly opens in high speed in the beginning, but sadly wheezes and sputters after one hour due to its lengthy plotline that doesn’t manage to uphold the same kind of tempo till the end.
Although, while watching ‘7 Khoon Maaf’ one can only marvel with the few selective scenes that involves the characters of Neil Nitin Mukesh, John Abraham, Irrfan Khan, Annu Kapoor and Naseer, but of all the actors, it’s only Priyanka who pitches an outstanding performance as a murderer in the film.
This does not mean that the other characters and the film is boring, and not riveting. There are a few quibbles in ‘7 Khoon Maaf’, but what makes the film tick is the humor element aptly interspersed in the plot and certain clever thrilling moments that are striking.
The story revolves around a lonely woman Susanna Anna-Marie Johannes (played by Priyanka Chopra), who is frantically obsessed with love, but ends up luckless in love, though she marries seven men.
This wealthy woman has faithful custodians to take care of her, which includes her aunty Maggie (Usha Uthup), Uncle Ghalib (Harish Khanna) and Goonga (Shashi Malviya), who also help her in murdering each of her husband’s, after she finds them incompatible.
In her life span, she marries seven men, her first marriage with one-legged Army Major Edwin Rodrigues (Neil Nitin Mukesh) doesn’t last that long since he is always suspicious and doesn’t allow her to breathe with his possessiveness and Susanna who couldn’t tolerate his arrogance kills him.
Following Rodrigues, she marries rock star Jamshed Rathod, alias Jimmy (played by John Abraham), sensitive and nasty Urdu poet Wasiullah Khan, alias Musafir (Irrfan Khan), Russian Nikolai Vronsky (Alexsandr Dyachenko), police officer Keemat Lal (Annu Kapoor) and Doctor Modhusudhon Tarafdar (Naseeruddin Shah).
Susanna embittered by the wrong husbands, ends their lives and switches from one husband to the other. When she becomes the prime suspect for the deaths of her 6 husbands, Susanna burns her house so that the police would assume that she wanted to end her life.
But fate has a different story. As the servant boy turned forensic expert Arun (Vivaan Shah), who always loved Susanna comes into the picture and finds out that she’s still alive, after realizing that the body in the house is not hers, and gets to meet her.
Incidentally, for the seventh time, Susanna gets married to someone who knows her past history of murders.
Vishal Bhardwaj leaves his stamp in several places in the film with his music, clever making style in direction and the performances of his myriad characters. What works in favor of the film is the narration, camera work and arresting music.
Watch the film for the solid characters and lovely Piggy Chops.
Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Naseeruddin Shah, Irrfan Khan, John Abraham, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Alexsandr Dyachenko, Annu Kapoor, Usha Uthup, Vivaan Shah.
Bond with the best. And no one's talking suave James 007 here. Rather, it's time to forge a cinematic link with Anglo Indian writer Ruskin Bond via '7 Khoon Maaf', helmed by Vishal Bhardwaj and based on Bond's short story 'Susanna's Seven Husbands'
Ruskin Bond, 76, enjoys an iconic status among the community of Indian writers in English and is as much a raconteur of romances as he is a master of the macabre. With Vishal Bhardwaj holding the directorial reins of '7 Khoon Maaf' and Priyanka Chopra frontlining the protagonist, there is little doubt that it's going to be a show of unadulterated brilliance.
Pretty much everyone knows about the premise of the film by now. '7 Khoon Maaf' revolves around Susanna Anna Marie Johannes and her many husbands, each of whose lives she ends for their various indiscretions. There's the arrogant and suspicious Captain Edwin Rodrigues, the two timing rockstar junkie Jamshed 'Jimmy' Rathore, the chauvinist poet Wasiullah Khan, the Russian double agent Nicolai Vronsky, the opportunistic letch Inspector Keematlal and the deadly naturopath Dr Madhusudhan Tarafdar.
Helping her along the way are her three servants, Khan, who looks like a '70s villain himself, Goonga, a mute stable boy and Maggie Auntie, her estate's caretaker who has practically raised her. Tying the narrative together is Arun, an orphan whose education Susanna pays for, and shares an oddly Oedipal equation with.
The thing about story here is that one is never quite sure whether Susanna's really a woman scorned, a serial killer, or quite simply a psychopath. In a back story related by one of the characters, we are told that a younger Susanna choose to shoot a mad dog in her path, rather than change the route she walked to school from. The idea is that she'd rather get rid of the problem than change the situation.
So, while her first few murders happen out of a sense of being scorned, as Susanna ages, you actually wonder whether she isn't actually enjoying the bloodshed. But while the wrongs that her husbands commit are there for all to see, one is liable to ask why each of their errors is punished with death? In typical Bond fashion, that is left for the reader, or rather, the viewer here, to decide.
Working with a piece of modern literature, Vishal Bhardwaj, partnering Matthew Robbins on the screenplay, virtually creates a book out of '7 Khoon Maaf' too, with each of Susanna's marriages playing out like a new chapter in the novel. But while an author's canvas is large enough to elaborate on all his characters, Bhardwaj finds space in his film to focus on just one, our protagonist Susanna. While husbands come and go, Bhardwaj never lets the audience forget who the star of the show here is. Telling us just enough about the husbands to know of their indiscretions, he reveals a new facet of Susanna's with every story.
On the visual side of things, Bhardwaj shoots his latest film as exquisitely as always, using a fantastic play between light and colours to convey a sense of story. While lighting scenes of Susanna's joy in vibrant colours, every murder of hers takes place in an ambiguous darkness of sorts, laying a grey pale on her acts and hinting at the morality of what she does. Given the time period that the film takes place over, Vishal also consciously stays away from any efforts to shoot the film in a period film manner, instead simply using news events like the Babri Masjid demolition and the 26/11 attacks to establish a timeline instead.
Priyanka Chopra has for long been considered one of Hindi cinema's best actresses, and with '7 Khoon Maaf', she is ready to claim her crown. Spellbinding in every moment she spends on screen, she conveys a sense of vicious danger and desperation, helplessness and vulnerability, all at once, as Susanna. Her portrayal of character's internal evolution over the years is only matched by the external metamorphosis that her Susanna goes through, with some stunning make up work by 'Benjamin Button' artist Greg Cannom.
Amongst the husbands, Neil Nitin Mukesh as Captain Rodrigues, sets the bar for acting. While John Abraham is also superb as the junkie Jamshed, Aleksandr Dyachenko as the Russian brings in a hint of humour with his Bollywood inspired Hindi. Annu Kapoor as Inspector Keemat is also quite funny. While Irrfan Khan is deadly in his violent bedroom scenes, both he and Naseeruddin Shah seem a bit wasted as Wasiullah and Dr. Tarafdar respectively, especially for a Vishal Bhardwaj film. The latter, however, can take heart, as his son Vivaan is possibly the dark horse of the film. His performance as the pining narrator Arun, the only constant in Susanna's life, comes close to rivalling that of Chopra herself, though he doesn't get quite the same amount of stage time.
Given that it is a Vishal Bhardwaj film, the music in '7 Khoon Maaf' is expectedly top notch. His brilliant take on the Russian marching song 'kalinka', 'darrling', has already been spoken for. But the way he uses tracks like 'bekaran', 'o mama' and 'yeshu' also need applauding, the last one especially so for the symbolism it brings to the film. With mentor Gulzar on the lyrics, Bhardwaj crafts another brilliant score for the film.
'7 Khoon Maaf' does superbly to carry off all the expectations riding on it, with Vishal Bhardwaj staying true to his form, once again, in film and music, both. The film is Priyanka Chopra's assertion of her acting brilliance, that is on display here for all to see. But in the end, '7 Khoon Maaf' is a story that belongs to one man, and one man only, who could have created a character as complex, dangerous and enticing as Susanna. And that is one Mr Ruskin Bond.
It takes a really keen eye to visualise a film in a short story. Then to turn it into a full-fledged film is a different task altogether. And Vishal Bharadwaj has done exactly that to Ruskin Bond's short story, Susanna's Seven Husbands. It's a commendable effort as he has crafted a body (7 KHOON MAAF) out of a skeleton (Susanna's Seven Husbands).
Love knows no boundaries and the vivacious Susanna Anna-Marie Johannes (Priyanka Chopra) is an apt example. 7 KHOON MAAF is her quest for true love. In a span of 35 odd years, she marries as many as seven times. Her husbands include Major Edwin Rodriques (Neil Nitin Mukesh), singer Jimmy Stetson (John Abraham), poet Wasiullah Khan (Irrfan Khan), Moscow resident Nicolai Vronsky (Aleksandr Dyachenko), police officer Keemat Lal (Anu Kapoor), Doctor Modhusudhon Tarafdar (Naseeruddin Shah) and one more (who can't be revealed as it would be spoiler). Arun (Vivaan Shah, son of Naseeruddin Shah) is the narrator, who considers Susanna as her prem devi. The bizarre deaths of her husbands make Sussane the prime suspect.
Vishal Bharadwaj's 7 KHOON MAAF is simpler when compared with his previous film KAMINEY, but getting into the intricacies would mean giving away the entire thing. He gets on with the story and doesn't waste any time in establishing the characters. We get to know more about the characters as the story progresses. The narrative is intriguing and slowly grows on you. It makes you wonder, what would you do if you were in Susanna's shoes.
Vishal veer's away from showing anything gory. Of all the tracks, the Wasiullah Khan part stands out and is most outrageous. The film gets a bit predictable after a while but the engaging screenplay makes sure that there aren't any dull moments. The gradual ageing of Susanna from a 20 to 65 year-old is deftly shown.
On the flip side, you wish some of the stories were a bit more compelling and justified. This is what prevents the film from being an outstanding one. Arun suddenly grows up which is a bit baffling. The humour quotient could have been a notch higher. The second half is exhaustive and a bit stretched due to the copious twists and turns.
Sreekar Prasad's editing is superb. The transition of the various stories is astutely done. Vishal Bhardwaj's music is good with Darling and Bekaraan being the best songs. Even the background score given by Vishal is gripping and elevates the overall impact.
It's not easy to play a character spread across 35 years and Priyanka Chopra does that with immense conviction and confidence. She's a complete charmer and establishes her acting prowess. Vivaan Shah makes a very impressive debut. He's surely a talent to watch for. Neil Nitin Mukesh acts well but his good looks go against his otherwise stern character. John Abraham is underutilised. Irrfan Khan is outstanding as the poet. Watch out for the scene in which he slaps Priyanka. Anu Kapoor acts really well. Naseeruddin Shah is excellent. Aleksandr Dyachenko is passable and looks funny when he speaks Hindi. Ruskin Bond's cameo is okay.
A captivating story and excellent performances make 7 KHOON MAAF a bloody good film. Make sure you attend the weddings.
Vishal Bhardwaj does it again. The maverick filmmaker who has some of the most acclaimed movies to his name has once again woven magic with his latest blockbuster Saat Khoon Maaf. This time round the director shifts from his favourite Shakespeare (Omkara and Maqbool were based on Othello and Macbeth respectively) to India’s veteran story teller Ruskin Bond. Based on a seven-page story called ‘Susana’s Seven Husbands’ Saat Khoon Maaf presents Priyanka Chopra in a never before character.
Susanna (Priyanka Chopra) is a depressed woman. All she wants is love. But all she ends up with is weirdness, wickedness and bestiality in the form of her sundry husbands. Naturally then, there is only one option left for her to end her bitter ordeal. The very first shot, which explodes with a grimacing Priyanka pulling the trigger, the director draws you into this tale of passion and crime. All the death play takes place in semi-darkness: an almost outward pouring of an evil soul.
Vishal sticks to his style in almost all the frames. The entire film unfolds in shadows and silhoutes and sets the tone of the film. If you aren`t looking for good old entertainment here, you are going to love this gripping story of crime and punishment which lays bare the innermost recesses of a tortured soul. Vishal never once slips and lets go of his hold on this intense study of grief and grime.
Priyanka may be a murderer, but is she evil? Like all good and realistic crime and passion plays, this one too showcases the protagonist as a woman with a purpose. She may have used poisonous snakes and mushrooms and loaded guns to do away with her husbands, but you don`t really blame her.
Because Susanna carries the pain of every woman wronged: either by a two-timing husband, a wife-beating husband, a junkie husband, a murderous husband, a dictatorial husband, a sadistic husband, a husband who treats his wife as a sex object. And she simply does what she does to end her own anguish.
Priyanka Chopra gives a stellar performance. She essays the troubled Susanna with élan and almost manages to gain sympathy from the viewers each time she kills one of her husbands. You just can’t help but feel bad for her. Amongst her husbands, it is Neil Nitin Mukesh who excels as the brutes. The music score (Gulzar and Vishal) is riveting too and boasts of the mesmerizing Darrrling number, amongst other tuneful songs.
A big thumbs up to Priyanka Chopra for taking the risk to portray such a dark character who is almost unapologetic about killing her husbands. The film has to be one of the biggest gamble that Priyanka played which has surely paid off!
A series of one night stands which doesn't quite become an affair to remember
Imagine a cocktail party full of dangerously beautiful women and handsome but decadent men. Imagine a home where such a party is thrown--inherited furniture, heavy drapes, smoke filled air and a butler who knows the bar as well as who drinks what. Now imagine a film where a succession of such men trip in and out of the door. It makes a wonderful series of vignettes, with Susanna, the hostess, played by Priyanka Chopra, graciously allowing herself to be used and abused. Sadly, though, it's no more than that.
Moody, atmospheric, marked by tremendous performances, and yet somehow the parts don't make the whole. Not for lack of trying. Susannah (Priyanka Chopra) is a tigress on screen. Sometimes slapped around, sometimes loving with abandon, sometimes happy in lust, and sometimes plain jaded, she is a woman of any freedom-loving woman's dreams. Mistress of a sprawling home, with no particular known income, she lives in decaying splendour like our very own Scarlett O'Hara. She has an ancient maid (Usha Utthup, in a surprise appearance), a discreet butler, a one-eyed jockey (for she is the mistress of several racehorses) and a loyal little boy whom she decides to put in school (a bitter-sweet debut by Naseeruddin Shah's younger son, Vivaan).
The plot is over-written as is to be expected in a film which becomes an extended cocktail party. The guests are fascinating, representing her lucklessness in love. There's the cruel army major (Neil Nitin Mukesh, excellent), the rock star (John Abraham, as good as he can get as the drug-addled, sex crazed Jimmy Stetson aka Jamshetji Rathore), the sensitive poet with a nasty streak (Irrfan Khan, as always brilliant), the kind doctor (Naseeruddin Shah, with a jolly Bonglish accent), the lascivious police officer (Annu Kapoor), and the handsome Russian (Aleksandr Dyachen, who should immediately be imported to Bollywood). All of them have their kinks and claws, and the pleasure is in discovering them.
Susanna Sahib's search for love takes her into territory that is often horrifying, but somehow the writing ensures that each episode remains a brilliantly shot and enacted short story, never quite integrating into a whole, introducing us to several guests but not quite involving us. Vishal Bharadwaj makes Priyanka act out of her skin, and she tries hard, subjecting herself to things onscreen most Hindi film stars wouldn't (don't get your hopes up, boys, Hindi film heroine standards are low).
Bharadwaj tries to give Susanna (sometimes Sultana, sometimes Sunaina, sometimes rock groupie Susy and other times the mysterious Anna) a reality by rooting her struggles with that of India. Oh, look, as Susanna marries her first husband, Operation Blue Star is happening. Oh, look, there's the Babri Masjid demolition as she meets her Kashmiri poet, oh look again there's the Pokharan nuclear explosion. And yet again, the IC-814 hijack.
It's not to say that there is no joy in watching Saat Khoon Maaf. Not at all. There are several. Priyanka Chopra, for one, showing tremendous courage. The men, for being uniformly engaging. The cinematography which succeeds in creating an atmosphere of lurking menace. The art direction, which almost threatens to overwhelm the film. The music, which is so perfectly matched to the movie. And yes, even Ruskin Bond, the writer, in a special role, saying the line that sums up the movie: It all comes down to love, sweetheart.
Indeed it does. Pity then that the film is a series of one night stands. What we wanted from the operatic Bhardwaj was an affair to remember.
7 Khoon Maaf
Director: Vishal Bharadwaj
Starring: Priyanka Chopra, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Naseeruddin Shah, John Abraham
Direction, Music and Editing – 7 Khoon Maaf Review
Vishal Bhardwaj’s direction is very fine. He has done justice to the script but it must be added that the film would be appreciated by a section of the class audience only. Music (Vishal Bhardwaj) is a mixed bag. The Dar-r-r-r-ling song is a mass-appealing hit number and its choreography is beautiful. The O mama and Dil songs also hold appeal. The Bekaraan and Awara numbers will not be liked by the masses. Gulzar’s lyrics are appropriate. Vishal Bhardwaj’s background score is exceptionally wonderful. Ranjan Palit’s camerawork is beautiful. Sham Kaushal’s action scenes are of a good standard. Editing (Sreekar Prasad) is crisp. Production values are as per the demands of the subject.
The Last Word
On the whole, 7 Khoon Maaf is for the elite audience in the big cities only. The general masses will reject it. Given its good recoveries from non-theatrical sources, it may not entail huge losses but its theatrical business will be far from exciting because of its highly class appeal. Distributors who have bought the film’s rights at fancy prices would stand to lose.
Priyanka Chopra excels as Susanna. She does the fullest justice to her role and plays her character wonderfully. Showing Priyanka ugly when her character has aged is not a wise thing to do even if it is done in the name of realism, because she is, after all, the heroine of the film. Naseeruddin Shah is very natural in a brief role. Irrfan Khan acts with effortless ease but his track is the weakest (of course, for no fault of his). John Abraham does well. Neil Nitin Mukesh springs a pleasant surprise with a sterling performance. Annu Kapoor is just too fantastic and deserves distinction marks for a memorable show of talent. Alexsandr Dyachenko leaves a mark and his dialogue delivery in Hindi is cute. Ruskin Bond is okay. Vivaan Shah has his moments. Konkona Sen Sharma is brilliant in a special appearance. Usha Uthup makes her presence felt. Harish Khanna and Shashi Malviya act ably. Master Ayush Tandon is very good.
Ruskin Bond’s story may be interesting and intriguing but the takers for this kind of subject among the Hindi film-going audience won’t be too many. There are a lot of questions that remain unanswered by the story writer and the screenplay writers viz. Matthew Robbins and Vishal Bhardwaj. For example, how does Susanna keep falling in love with men with such alarming regularity when she has had bitter and chilling experiences in her married life in the past? The natural way for a lady in such a situation would be to be put off marriage forever. The writers have sought to explain Susanna’s quest for the perfect life partner by establishing her character as one who is headstrong and doesn’t accept defeat – but this doesn’t impress the layman. Besides, why does she simply not walk out of the bad marriages? Why does she take law into her own hands each time she feels cheated by the husband? Who has given her the right to take people’s lives one after the other simply because the husbands were not to her liking? What is also puzzling is why man after man is keen on marrying Susanna when her earlier husband/s has/have died under mysterious circumstances. Even if the new suitor is unaware that Susanna had killed her husbands, wouldn’t he consider her jinxed and keep away from her? At least, that’s how the majority of the Indians would think when it comes to selecting a life partner.
Frankly, the biggest flaw of the script is that it doesn’t evoke the audience’s sympathy for Susanna. She smokes, she consumes alcohol, she sleeps with so many different men (so what if they are her husbands) – and all these are taboo as far as the Indian audience is concerned. Given these characteristics of Susanna, it is not likely that too many people would sympathise with her. Since the husbands have been shown as wrong men, the viewers’ sympathy would also not go to them. So, whom is the audience supposed to side with in the film? Susanna? No chance! One or all of the seven husbands? No chance! When that happens (the viewers are unable to sympathise with even one character in the film), there’s not much left in this drama to enjoy except, perhaps, the intrigue value which also loses charm after a few murders. The film becomes monotonous after a point of time because the title and the graph of the story keep nothing in the drama as a surprise element. To make matters worse, the pace of some portions of the drama is very slow and boring. Otherwise also, it is a depressing tale of a woman who doesn’t win the viewers’ sympathy, not the majority of the viewers, at least. Vishal Bhardwaj’s dialogues are exceptionally good and have a lot of weight.
UTV Spotboy and Vishal Bhardwaj Pictures’ 7 Khoon Maaf (A), based on Ruskin Bond’s story, Susanna’s Seven Husbands, is about Susanna Anne Marie Johannes (Priyanka Chopra) who feels betrayed after each of her seven marriages and, therefore, kills each of her seven husbands. It is about Susanna’s search for true love and marital bliss.
Susanna alias Saheb is a wealthy woman whose Christian father and Hindu mother are no more. Her caretakers and guardians are Maggie aunty (Usha Uthup), Ghalib uncle (Harish Khanna) and Goonga (Shashi Malviya) who cannot speak. She dotes on Arun (master Ayush Tandon) who is the adopted son of Goonga. Her first husband, Edwin Rodriques (Neil Nitin Mukesh), is an armyman who is over-possessive and extremely suspicious. One day, he accepts a challenge from Goonga and engages in a hunter-fight with him to decide who is supreme. In the fight, he injures one eye of Goonga with his hunter so mercilessly that he is left with just one eye. Susanna kills him because she treats Goonga as a trusted servant.
She then marries guitarist Jamshed Rathod alias Jimmy (John Abraham) but soon kills him too when she learns that he is on drugs and has kinky sex with other girls. She next marries Wasiullah Khan alias Musafir (Irrfan Khan) who is an Urdu poet. He has weird ideas about sex and brutally beats up Susanna every night. Tired, Susanna kills him too.
Her fourth husband is a Russian, Nikolai Vronsky (Alexsandr Dyachenko), whom she murders once she learns that he had married her in spite of having a wife and kids in Russia. He had professed his undying love for her and had, in fact, fooled her into believing that he was a one-woman man. The murder case becomes high-profile as it involves a foreign national, but the one who saves Susanna from going behind bars, by twisting facts, is intelligence officer Keemat Lal (Annu Kapoor) who she had met in an earlier murder case when he was a police inspector.
Keemat Lal marries Susanna and has sex with her but even this marriage doesn’t last as he becomes the fifth husband to be murdered by her. Dr. Modhusudan Tarafdar (Naseeruddin Shah) enters the scene when Susanna, frustrated and bitter, consumes sleeping pills to end her life. He saves her and even gets married to her, only to get killed by her when she realises that he himself was a murderer and had killed Ghalib.
After killing Dr. Tarafdar, Susanna burns her palatial house so that the police is led to believe that she herself had committed suicide. Her childhood friend, Arun, has now become a doctor (Vivaan Shah) and he is asked to carry out the post-mortem on the body found in the house as he is a forensic expert. He realises that Susanna is still alive and he goes in search of her and finally meets her. Incidentally, he had had a crush on her since childhood but had spurned her advances when she had tried to seduce him years back.
Anyway, Susanna gets married for the seventh time. What is the fate of her seventh husband? Does Arun give a report to nail her? What about Arun’s wife, Nandini (Konkona Sen Sharma)?
Priyanka Chopra is unlucky in love. She kills her first husband, then gets married again, kills the second one, and gets married again… and so on and so forth. The film traces her journey in search of true love and marital bliss. Read the entire Saat Khoon Maaf review to find out more.
Business Rating: 1.5 stars
Star cast: Priyanka Chopra, Naseeruddin Shah, Irrfan Khan, John Abraham, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Annu Kapoor, Vivaan Shah, Alexsandr Dyachenko, Usha Uthup.
What’s Good: The acting; the ‘Dar-r-r-r-ling’ song; the dialogues; the background music.
What’s Bad: The weird script; the screenplay glitches; the un-Indian sentiments in the drama; the slow pace.
Verdict: 7 Khoon Maaf alright… but will the audience pardon Vishal Bhardwaj? Not likely!
Loo break: Occasionally, in the second half.
Watch or Not? If you are a Vishal Bhardwaj fan, yes!
Story: Susanna is a sad woman. All she wants is love. But all she ends up with is weirdness, wickedness and bestiality in the form of her sundry husbands. Naturally then, there is only one option left for her to end her bitter ordeal. Murder. The embittered woman devices innovative measures to rid herself of her unsavoury husbands, hoping to find the elusive happy-ever-after sentiment some day. Does she succeed?
Movie Review: Vishal Bhardwaj takes a leap from Shakespeare to Greek tragedy. After having successfully rendered Othello and Macbeth in a purely desi idiom, the avant garde film maker transforms Priyanka Chopra into a Medea-like inferno who is hell-bent on revenge, after she fails to get her due from love and life. Is this leap successful too?
First things first. 7 Khoon Maaf is an intensely dark film which unfolds in shadows and silhouettes. So, if you aren't mistakenly looking for entertainment here, you are going to love this half-lit canvas of crime and punishment which lays bare the innermost recesses of a tortured soul. Vishal never once slips and lets go of his hold on this intense study of grief and grime. From the very first shot, which explodes with a grimacing Priyanka pulling the trigger on God-knows-who, the director inexorably draws you into this welter of passion and crime. All the death play takes place in semi-darkness: an almost outward pouring of an evil soul.
And this brings us to the second stirring note of 7 Khoon Maaf. The film is based on a seven-page story by Ruskin Bond. Vishal not only fleshes out the characters and adds immense details to the plot and the narration, he also balances the moral fulcrum at an interesting point. Priyanka may be a murderer, but is she evil? Never. Like all good and realistic crime and passion plays, this one too showcases the protagonist as a woman with a purpose. She may have used poisonous snakes and mushrooms and loaded guns to do away with her husbands, but you don't really blame her. Because somewhere through her dark and devious journey, Susanna carries the pain of every woman wronged: either by a two-timing husband, a wife-beating husband, a junkie husband, a murderous husband, a dictatorial husband, a sadistic husband, a husband who treats his wife as a sex object. The poor soul has no option but to end her anguish, any which way.
In terms of performances, 7 Khoon Maaf would undoubtedly end up as a milestone in Priyanka Chopra's career graph. The actor displays exquisite command over a complex character that is definitely a first in Indian cinema. She renders a subtle and restrained portrayal of a lonely and wronged woman who wanted love and only love from life. Amongst her husbands, it is Neil and Irrfan who excel as the brutes, even though it is hard to find fault with any of the characters in a Vishal Bhardwaj film. The music score (Gulzar and Vishal) is riveting too and boasts of the mesmerizing Darrrling number, amongst other tuneful songs. A word about the length: a bit of editing and tightening would make the experience more compelling.
Serious, sensitive and stirring, 7 Khoon Maaf is a whole new cinematic experience. Watch how Indian cinema is metamorphosing into something more substantial and glocal.
The film rests on Susannah's character. And it is to Bhardwaj's credit for creating a character so pure of heart, and yet so wicked.
At no point does writer-director Vishal Bhardwaj permit the viewer to blame Susannah (Priyanka Chopra) for any of her crimes; the viewer is to remain consistently sympathetic to her. And the film is so luscious for this reason: the way Bhardwaj makes us root for this semi-villain of a heroine.
It won't be fair to give away much of the story. The film is an adaptation of Ruskin Bond's short story Susannah's Seven Husbands, and has the writer play an interesting cameo.
7 Khoon Maaf is told by a character (Vivaan Shah) who calls Susannah 'Saheb'. He worked in her home as a servant, tortured by his uncle but 'Saheb' made sure he went to school. Since then he developed a fierce loyalty and love for her.
He tells us of Shauhar No. 1: a much-respected, handicapped lieutenant (Neil Nitin Mukesh) who "had all the qualities of most Indian husbands - he was boring, possessive and mahaa-shaki."
Then follow other husbands - a sweet choir singer, a charming Russian who woos her with broken Hindi, a doctor and so on. As love disappoints her each time, her husbands die under mysterious circumstances. Just before the interval you have a Quentin Tarantino-style line that says 'Four More to Go'.
As if the story wasn't amusing enough (in a Tales from the Crypt fashion), the dialogue is bursting with wit. Here's a gem, where a character says - 'Jaldi jaldi shaadi karo, aur aaram aaram se pachtao.' The dig on a famous music company is just delicious. The dialogue has a sprinkling of English, and has even the house help use swear words like f***.
The film is shot beautifully and you drown in the visual extravaganza - from the Darrling song to the orchestrated murders. The music (Vishal Bhardwaj, lyrics by Gulzar) is super-fun.
The time lapse between the various husbands is told through political goings-on in the country: we see the government celebrating successful nuclear tests, the Babri Masjid demolition, and the Taj Mahal hotel terrorist attacks - all against Susanna's newest love story.
Bhardwaj has complete control of his narrative - he keeps the film pacy, yet unhurried. At no point does the storytelling feel the pressure of having to narrate seven incidents within a framework; and never does a scene go indulgently overboard.
Priyanka Chopra gives her career-best performance - she moulds Susannah into a character that evokes our emotions, not our rage. Chopra makes this character fun, flirtatious, kind, and impious at the same time.
Vivaan Shah makes a confident debut as the struck teenager seeing Susannah's life unfold from the sidelines. All the actors prove their mettle and make a mark as Susannah's husbands.
7 Khoon Maaf gets macabre at several times, and might prove a difficult watch for some. But for others sporting enough to sample a new cinematic experience, there are several delights.
Like the chilling scene where the murderers are playing the piano and dancing around their victim before finishing him off.
I won't name the murderer and the victim, but it's such a delightful portion full of humour of the darkest, despicable sort. The film gives you a high, really!
'Once that you've decided on a killing,' sang Sting back in 1983, 'first you make a stone of your heart. And if you find that your hands are still willing, then you can turn a murder into art.'
Tragically, Priyanka Chopra is the kind of actress that painstakingly -- and painfully -- tries to spell out just how stony her heart is, something far better conveyed through deed rather than affected mannerism. Eyes well up with hurt, thick lips quiver in pouty indignation, and subtlety is thrown to the hounds as the actress flounders, trapped inside a bewildering character significantly out of her league. And while The Police song might have gone on about a slaughtering spree as easy as ABC, Vishal Bhardwaj takes it far too literally and gives us a film so linear, so simplistic in narrative, that it never quite manages to arouse interest. 7 Khoon Maaf may well be about a demented deity with a fetish for husband-killing, but -- incredible as it may seem -- it is a strikingly boring film.
More than that, in fact, this is a cute film. A very adult story told puzzlingly like a children's fable, this Ruskin Bond adaptation never quite shakes off the artificial affectedness and comes across only as a silly film masquerading as a smarter, cooler, deeper one. Its lines mostly overwritten with both cloying mawkishness as well as childish over-exposition, 7 Khoon Maaf is often just being precious -- while not really worth all that much. It starts off promisingly enough, an investigation tray being wheeled into a government forensics lab -- the kind of place Bollywood never shows us. An expert opens up the box, looks at pictures of a presumably dead Priyanka, and a tear rolls down his cheek. Most of the rest of the film is photo-album driven flashback, involving him telling her story to his shrill, curious wife.
We see a young Priyanka Chopra at her father's funeral, and then are exposed, one-by-one, to a procession of her many fatally flawed grooms. A two-timing Trotskyite, a poetic pervert, an antiquated apothecary, a foolish officer, and a couple of men who can't act. The wedding-fetishist disposes of them all with consummate ease, while the master filmmaker loyally -- and unimaginatively -- serialises her process.
Bhardwaj's cinema has always been one of quirk and energy, the director whimsically bending the narrative and soaking it in such style that it's impossible to look away. This time, however, he seems content to let the film do the talking while he merely watches... there is no panache, no audacity, no trademark flourish. There is just an immaculate song set in Kashmir , and a fabulous one with Russian roots that deserved a better film around it.
There are inevitably a few very clever moments in the film -- a scene involving a white cat in the snow, for example, or that marvelous last line about broken spectacles -- but the characters populating the proceedings are much too exaggerated. A muted dwarf as if from a Sherlock Holmes adventure; a tender writer with a violent sexual fetish; a Russian man of mystery who quotes Amitabh Bachchan ... Bhardwaj's traditionally wonderful dialogue is more basic and less smart this time around, and resultantly the characters emerge considerably contrived and theatrically overdone.
It may be argued, of course, that the maker's intent was to create a macabre opera. Yet this is a highly irregular product, often flip-flopping the line between melodrama and dark comedy, not quite achieving either. And what opera could work if you cared not for its players? Priyanka tries her best, but is simply not a good enough actress to justify being in a role this nuanced and demanding. It is a fantastic character, one deserving of a Sofia Loren or a Penelope Cruz or a Waheeda Rahman, and try as Ms Chopra might, she never comes close to being convincing. She turns hints into signals, happiness into hysterics, her every movement an act. She looks her best when sternly strutting into a hospital, occasionally gets a line right, and her acting highlight comes with her resigned yet in-control body language as she sees off Annu Kapoor to his car. Yet these are but a few swallows, and she's an actress unworthy of this season.
The strongest acting comes from Vivaan Shah, who plays the film's lovelorn narrator, and Harish Khanna, as a loyal butler who knows it all. Both men have interesting screen presence and relatively solid characters, but are one-note, and frequently drowned out by the buffoons around them. As for the husbands, only two are any good: Aleksandr Dyachenko charms both heroine and audience, as does Irrfan Khan when reading poetry or drowning breathlessly into Priyanka's eyes. Annu Kapoor is let down by a character written into caricature, while Naseeruddin Shah behaves differently every time we see him. John Abraham , his biceps the size of Bandra, tries hard to be a rocker and fares only marginally better than Neil Nitin Mukesh, playing a furious armyman seemingly focussing on his moustache not falling off.
Yet the heartbreak is in watching Bhardwaj, that fantastic master director, make a bloated film that plods sluggishly along, a film that doesn't connect either emotionally or sensually.
I exit the theatre tiptoeing gingerly through treacley blood, past the fallen corpse of my expectations. That, ladies and gents, is Susanna's seventh casualty. And it's the only one that hurts.
The very thought of watching a Vishal Bhardwaj film excites a movie buff no end. Right from MAKDEE to KAMINEY, Bhardwaj's body of work stands out from the rest. The forward-thinking film-maker's fixation for adapting novels and plays is known to all and sundry by now. Continuing with his practice of adapting from the written form, the supremely talented storyteller now adapts Ruskin Bond's short story 'Susanna's Seven Husbands' for his new outing 7 KHOON MAAF. Known for walking the unusual path, Bhardwaj narrates an unconventional story yet again - of a woman who marries multiple times, following the untimely death of her husbands.
Till a few years ago, no one would've ever thought of making a film on a woman who marries, remarries, weds again, ties the knot yet again... in fact, she walks down the aisle multiple times. That's not all, the woman, we are told, kills each of her husbands subsequently. The theme might come as a jolt to the trditional moviegoers, since the wives on the Hindi screen are either depicted as docile and dutiful or fiercely independent and ambitious. The question is, will the orthodox Indian audience absorb a theme like this? It's blasphemous, some may opine. Imagine a murderous bride, some may rant.
There's talk that 7 KHOON MAAF is also loosely inspired from an Italian movie by the name SETTE VOLTE DONNA aka WOMAN TIMES SEVEN , helmed by Vittorio De Sica. That one depicted seven short stories with adultery as the focal point [Shirley MacLaine, the protagonist, knits these stories together]. However, the resemblance could be coincidental and not an attempt to plagiarize that film.
Now let me come to the point! 7 KHOON MAAF works in parts. A few stories - involving Neil Nitin Mukesh, John Abraham, Irrfan Khan and Annu Kapoor - are absorbing, while at least two could've been better narrated - Naseeruddin Shah and Aleksandr Dyachenko. The unfortunate part is that the uninteresting ones come in the latter half and coupled with its excessive length, the impact generated by a captivating first hour gets diluted in the process. Even the culmination doesn't sweep you off your feet.
Not just the unconventional plot, even the execution of the subject material is offbeat and quirky. There are several instances in the narrative where the viewer has to stay very, very attentive. Unlike other films, Bhardwaj wants his viewer to stay attentive and use his mind while watching the various stories in 7 KHOON MAAF. In one sequence, the camera zooms and the funeral transforms into a marriage, while another sequence depicts the marriage transforming into a funeral. Also, the mystery of the killer with five fingers and one toe is disentangled towards the end, but the sequence doesn't register as effectively thanks to the way it has been depicted.
Susanna [Priyanka Chopra] is unlucky in love. Her first husband, Major Edwin [Neil Nitin Mukesh], is overtly possessive and suspicious. After his demise, Susanna marries Jimmy [John Abraham] as she is floored by his musical talent. Jimmy becomes successful, but with success comes girls and drugs. He dies of drug overdose.
Enter Wasiullah aka Musafir [Irrfan Khan]. Impressed by his poetry, Susanna marries him, but discovers that he's a romantic in daytime, but a beast at night. He too gets eliminated. Susanna falls for the suave Nicolai [Aleksandr Dyachenko] from Moscow, but this marriage doesn't last long as Susanna discovers that Vronsky has a wife in Russia.
Following the death of a foreign national, the police start taking keen interest in the case. The officer Keemat Lal [Annu Kapoor] enters Susanna's life. Initially, he asks for sexual favors and later, persuades her to marry him. He dies due to cardiac arrest. After the death of Keemat Lal, Susanna marries Dr. Modhusudon [Naseeruddin Shah]. Susanne is depressed and he puts her on a mushroom only diet. But he's the first guy in her life who wants to get rid of her. Instead, she murders him.
In the end, Susanna marries yet again... for the seventh time. This time, to someone who knows she has committed the murders and sins. What happens next?
Though Priyanka is shown killing her husbands with the help of her ever-faithful staff, let this be told that it's not a scary or frightful experience. Sure, it's intense, but at the same time Bhardwaj injects humor in the narrative and that's the prime reason why the narrative never gets heavy or serious. I'd like to say this film is in a space of its own.
Also, though the protagonist marries and remarries, you don't feel any kind of animosity or hatred for the character. On the contrary, one empathizes with her never-ending pursuit for true love. One feels the pain, loneliness and tragedy that she goes through and that's what makes her the woman that she eventually turns out to be. Wicked, she is, but Bhardwaj offers reasons for her to get rid of those men. The reasons, in most cases, are convincing. But the transition from one man/husband to another is so sudden that Susanna comes across as a desperate lady hankering for yet another marriage.
Bhardwaj, the writer, leaves the viewer clueless about the two stories in the second hour. Fine, Susanna had learnt that her Russian husband had a wife and two kids tucked away in Russia, but the manner in which the entire case is solved leaves you baffled. In fact, one often wonders if it was so easy to murder a person and move on in life. How could the law enforcement remain a silent spectator despite multiple murders/mysterious deaths involving the same woman? The writing didn't appear foolproof and convincing to me.
Bhardwaj shares yet another responsibility in his films - handling the music department. One is assured that Bhardwaj would come up with lilting and high quality compositions, but the soundtrack of 7 KHOON MAAF is strictly okay. The Indian version of the Russian song 'Kalinka', 'Darling', is already a rage and it goes without saying that it's the best track of the enterprise. Rendered brilliantly, the song is sure to be one of the reasons why people will be tempted to watch the film.
Always ready to accept challenges in her career [AITRAAZ, YAKEEN, FASHION] and raising the bar with her performances, Priyanka accepts the challenge to portray ages from 21 to 65 in 7 KHOON MAAF. It must've been an arduous task to get the different age-groups right, but she proves her infinite acting potential yet again. Known to be an actress who stays true to every character that she is portraying, Priyanka delivers yet another sparkling, award worthy performance this time. There are several love-making sequences with her husbands and Priyanka has handled those [bold] sequences without inhibitions.
Amongst the remaining cast, Annu Kapoor leaves the maximum impact. He's simply outstanding! John doesn't really get much scope, Neil is effective, Irrfan is wonderfully restrained, Naseer is believable and Aleksandr is passable. Vivaan Shah, who narrates the story of Susanna, is a talent to watch out for. Though it's his maiden film as an actor, it doesn't seem like one. He is not your regular debutant and that's what makes his character appear so real. Konkona Sen Sharma does well. Usha Uthup and the two male helps are good.
On the whole, 7 KHOON MAAF is a dark film that has its share of positives and negatives. However, the film will meet with diverse reactions - some will fancy it, while some will abhor it. The film will appeal more to the critics/columnists and the festival circuit. However, it is not the kind of cinema that will set the box-office ablaze. Ideally, I would've given a two star rating for this film, but I am going ahead with an extra star for Priyanka Chopra's sterling performance!