Relentless quest for ’Love’ or ’Need’ or whatever else, but still, the premise for bumping off husbands in 7 Khoon Maaf isn’t convincing and beyond a point, the film tests your patience. And you end up asking yourself, "Kab ’khatm’ hogi". On the positive side, the dialogues are superb, acting is brilliant by one-n-all and its been shot very well. In other words, the artistic merits are sound but the entertainment quotient strictly depends on your ’taste’. Not everyone’s cup of tea for sure.
Why would Susanna (Priyanka Chopra) go on killing all her husbands and why would anyone marry a mysterious woman at various junctures of her life in spite of knowing her enigmatic-n-ambiguous past? Alright, the attempts at reasoning out the murders have been made and almost every time, Susanna is pitched as the victim. She has a battery of trusted lieutenants who are partners in crime and who seem to have no ambition in life other than anticipating as to who’ll be the next husband and how they’ll finally make him ’rest in peace’. Hmmmm...
There are several merits in 7 Khoon Maaf. Lets check them out. Priyanka Chopra will always be remembered as Susanna for the rest of her career. This is her career best performance and it’ll be tough for her to match this role with any other prized roles that she may ever get. The vulnerability of Sultana suffering under the manic Wasi Ullah (Irrfan Khan), the bitch who ’uses’ Inspector Keemat Lal (Anu Kapoor), the spurned woman, spewing venom on Vronsky (Aleksandr Dyachenko), the humiliated wife who takes revenge on Edwin Rodriguez (Neil Mukesh), Jim’s (John Abraham) Suzy who can’t take the deceit beyond a stretch, the betrayed lover jolted by Tarafdar’s (Naseeruddin Shah) selfishness. Or her fantastic interactions with Vivaan Shah at various time frames in the film...Priyanka gives it her everything and etches her name amongst the finest actresses of all times.
The entire starcast puts in stellar performances. Irrfan Khan, Naseeruddin Shah, John Abraham, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Anu Kapoor and Aleksandr are excellent. Shashi Malviya as the midget jockey Goonga is very good while butler Ghalib (Harish Khanna) is brilliant and has some plum moments in the film. Naseeruddin Shah’s son Vivaan Shah makes a fantastic debut. His voice over is the link, the sutradhar that carries the story forward. Extremely effective voice with correct pitching and spot-on Urdu pronunciation.
Ranjan Palit’s cinematography is brilliant. The shots of Kashmir are exquisite. Sreekar Prasad’s editing is sloppy. The duration of the film is too long. In fact, someone rightly said at the press show, "its two husbands too long". Vishal Bhardwaj’s background score goes well with the mood of the film while the songs are a mixed bag. Darrling has a ready-made mass appeal while the rest of the songs cater to a niche market. Bekaran has been superbly sung by Vishal and picturised beautifully too. O Maama is a heavy duty rock number.
As is well known, 7 Khoon Maaf is based on a short story by Ruskin Bond (he is one of the husbands in the film), Susanna’s Seven Husbands. But the screenplay has been written by Vishal Bhardwaj and Matthew Robbins. Again, it has two sides to it. Dialogues are meaningful and sensible. The writing of the film also passes comments on the important events of various generations like India’s Nuclear Test, Babri Masjid demolition, 26/11 attack on Mumbai etc. This also conveys the aging process of Susanna as well in a subtle manner. On the flip side, as mentioned earlier, the premise for Susanna killing her husbands is not convincing. And that is the biggest flaw, for the viewer doesn’t connect with what’s happening after a point of time.
Director Vishal Bhardwaj revels in abstract symbolism and obviously he also has a wicked sense of humour smeared in blood-n-gore. He has made 7 Khoon Maaf for the classes who’ll have the patience to decipher the finer meaning hidden within the various layers of human drama. The aam janta will have to get ’bitten’ by this killer at their own risk. Take a pick for yourself as to which audience you comprise of.
Star Rating: ***