Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
7 Khoon Maaf: Enticing premise, lacklustre execution
The basic premise of Vishal Bhardwaj’s enticingly titled “7 Khoon Maaf” is enough to generate excitement about the film. A woman marrying several times and killing off each of her husbands is the kind of story you don’t get to see too often in Bollywood, and if anyone can do justice to that kind of a dark theme, it has to be Bhardwaj. There wasn’t much that could go wrong with this one.
That’s exactly what I thought when I entered the theatre, more than seven months ago, to watch a movie called “Raavan“. And we all know what happened with that one. I might be accused of being a little harsh here but this film might be Vishal Bhardwaj’s “Raavan”.
In what is his weakest film yet, Bhardwaj takes the tantalising prospect of a “black widow”, and turns it into a haphazard story of a woman who seems to have a fetish for murdering her husbands, even when just leaving them would have been enough.
Priyanka Chopra plays Susanna Marie Johannes, going from a coy-20 something to a crazy-50 something during the film. As she tells one of her husbands, there’s no worse accident than marriage in a woman’s life. But she herself suffers that accident several times and when her husbands don’t turn out to be what she thought they would, she kills them off without batting an eyelid, and flits to the next one within the blink of an eye.
Bhardwaj skims the surface of each of the characters, and we never get a sense of the desperation, and later the madness that Susanna’s character should have displayed to be capable of multiple murders. In the end, you don’t feel for her character or any of the men she killed.
There is not much action and the murders get repetitive, especially because you know they are all going to die in the end. In fact, the last one seems hurriedly inserted just to make up the right number. Of the performances, Priyanka Chopra tries her best to be Susanna, but is hampered by a lacklustre script and even worse make-up. Her face in the last few scenes looks like a wall with peeling paint. That is not how women look in ther 50s. Vivaan Shah, as her admirer is restrained and does his part well.
What is it with some of our best directors making such duds these days? There was Mani Ratnam, Ashutosh Gowariker and now Vishal Bhardwaj — the latter being someone who has always delivered brilliance in almost all aspects of storytelling. We should perhaps overlook this one as a weak link in an otherwise great career and move on. ‘Ek film maaf’.