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7 Khoon Maaf Review

    7 Khoon Maaf Review: Jesus! I feel bored to death. There’s no bell tower nearby to rush to and vent my indignation nor any spouse to bump off. And though I don’t exactly feel like being punished for someone else’s sins, I am overwhelmingly disappointed to see that Vishal Bhardwaj -- the bellwether of the herd of new-age Hindi film-makers, the auteur who so convincingly brought the Bard of Avon to the badlands of UP -- has now strayed into mediocrity with so artless and heartless a film as 7 Khoon Maaf, his seventh directorial work certainly not deserving of a pardon.
    Based on a short story by Ruskin Bond, the movie tells the tale of a woman named Susanna (Priyanka Chopra) who’s decidedly unfortunate in love and matrimony. In her fatal quest for love, she marries six times and every one of her hubbies turns out to be a rank scumbag: be it a lame chauvinist Major (Neil Nitin Mukesh), a junkie rockstar (John Abraham), a sadomasochistic poet (Irrfan Khan), a Russian double agent (Aleksandr Dyanchenko), a Viagra popping lech (Anu Kapoor), or a money-grubbing, mushroom-loving quack (Naseeruddin Shah). Jesus knows who Susanna’s seventh casualty is for Bhardwaj leaves an open strand in the end and gives the bored viewers a teeny quiz to hair-split. That’s the only intriguing part where you snap out of the slumber but soon see the end credits roll.

    Granted that a story so episodic as this could not have been told but linearly. But why, pray, is the jumble of Susanna’s matrimonial misadventures reduced to the incessant yo-yoing between her elation at finding the ‘right’ man and her subsequent dejection at the discovery that he’s actually a scumbag. So while the hubbies are kicked to the famished man-eating panthers, or are drug-overdosed, or snake-bitten, or buried alive, or shot point blank, not once does a yawning viewer see a scrap of ingenuity so expected of a Bhardwaj film.

    Of course, the bleakly-lit frames and Susanna’s own darkening complexion serve as metaphors to the dark side of her personality, and Bhardwaj does throw in time-references in the tale -- from the falling of the Berlin wall to the Mumbai terror attacks -- but come on, a viewer expects more than such customary symbolism. Even the film’s music gives the impression that its composer (Bhardwaj) was battling a creative block.

    A little heart can be taken from the fact that the actors don’t disappoint. Priyanka sinks her teeth into the complex character of Susanna and delivers a performance that makes you forget the film’s flaws for a while. Ditto for Neil, Anu Irrfan and Naseer. Vivaan Shah, who is Susanna’s protégé and the story’s narrator, makes a confident debut.

    After hitting the peak with Blood Brothers (a short film I consider Bhardwaj’s best work to date), Vishal has been on a downslide, first marked by the utterly ordinary Kaminey and now cemented by 7 Khoon Maaf. Is the genius of the maverick careening into mediocrity? Was the dream of a bold new Hindi cinema just a chimera?

    One thing is for sure. There’s much worthwhile to do with your time than to watch the gloomy tale of an unscrupulous hubby-slaying woman whom you see whirling like a dervish with no less than the Redeemer in the end.

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7 Khoon Maaf Review

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