2010 saw so many disappointments in terms of films that I now tend to keep my expectations of any given film in check. 7 Khoon Maaf was packed to the rim with potential right from the first promos. Be it the Vishal Bhardwaj stamp, the (at first glance) interesting plot or Priyanka Chopra, 7 Khoon Maaf undoubtedly had a lot going for it.
Based on a short story titled Susanna’s Seven Husbands, the film is centred on a lady’s quest for true love. Chopra plays the role of Susanna who falls in love but gets her heart broken every time. As the name of the movie suggests, her seven pursuits follow her as she falls for an army personnel (Neil Nitin Mukesh), a singer (John Abraham), a poet (Irrfan Khan), a policeman (Annu Kapoor), a herbal medicine expert (Naseeruddin Shah), a Russian “spy” (played by Russian actor Aleksandr Dyachenko) and a scientist (Vivaan Shah). With the support of her trusted friends (one of which is played by playback singer Usha Uthup), Susanna is able to “get rid” of her heart-breaking husbands with ease.
From start to finish, it’s hard to escape the Vishal Bhardwaj mark on the movie. With films such as Omkara and Ishqiya to his name, Bhardwaj tries in every venture to bring a different feel to your average Bollywood blockbuster. In 7 Khoon Maaf, it’s hard to say whether he succeeds at this but it’s safe to reveal that the time transition which takes place isn’t too obvious. Although there are a handful of characters in the movie which are shown aging (including Chopra), the incoherent nature between the various husbands’ stories is perhaps the weakest aspect of the film. In my personal opinion, it was as if Susanna’s character changed and matured throughout the course of the film but with every husband, a new story took place with no regards to the Sussanna’s past. The patchy and unfitting jigsaw of Susanna’s life failed to fit together as seamlessly as it should or could do.
The movie’s biggest asset is, without a doubt, Chopra’s flawless performance. Chopra is quite possibly the only actress in mainstream Indian cinema today who can effortlessly play any role and emerge as a superstar. What’s Your Rashee saw Chopra play 12 roles in one film and even though it bombed at the box office, it was her first-rate acting that was noticed above all else. Similarly, in 7 Khoon Maaf, not much has impact aside from Chopra’s performance. In a movie which could just as easily flunk as it could soar, Chopra delivers the character, the spirit and the essence of Susanna in a way which will stay with the audiences… even if nothing else about the film resonates.
Out of the many personalities featured in this film, in albeit small but pivotal roles, the highlight was Vivaan Shah (Naseeruddin Shah’s youngest son). Shah’s character, Arun, is the narrator of the story and also plays a personal part in Susanna’s life through the years. Shah’s portrayal of the innocent, besotted and somewhat obsessed confidante of Susanna stands out where others in the movie don’t so much. Along with newbie Prateik Babbar in Dhobi Ghat, I think Shah is also an actor to look out for.
One thing I cannot go without mentioning is that I really don’t understand what made the likes of John Abraham and Irrfan Khan take on the roles they did in this movie. Abraham plays a singer who turns into a drug addict whose addiction eventually plays a big part in his death. To say the very least, Abraham’s wigs are definitely not a sight for sore eyes and the role does him no justice whatsoever. The same can be said for Khan who plays the role of a wife-beater and… well you’ll have to see the film yourselves to know what else. Khan perhaps has the look and personality required to fit into the character but aside from that, his talent is very much wasted in this movie.
To conclude, it’s difficult to say that there are more pros for 7 Khoon Maaf than cons or vice-versa. The movie, quite simply, will not work with the masses but may achieve a place in the hearts of a niche audience whether within or outside the sub-continent. Fans of Chopra will undoubtedly watch the movie for the actress whose talent is sometimes outweighed by the credibility of a movie. I won’t mock Chopra for attempting an author-backed role like Susanna’s but this in turn leaves me hoping that she doesn’t take on movies just to experiment rather than flaunt her obvious talent. Chopra is capable of a powerhouse performance in pretty much any roles she undertakes but 7 Khoon Maaf won’t be seen as one of her better choices.
If you’re looking for a movie which will feed your psych then 7 Khoon Maaf might deliver on some levels (if you don’t mind the mental torture which it becomes towards the end) but if you’re looking for pure entertainment, this is perhaps one you should miss. I would go as far as to say that only Priyanka Chopra makes the film what it is… without her part, it’s likely the movie and the concept would have been a dead weight even before promos were released.
Rating 2/5 (I’m feeling generous!)