Incidentally, this happens to be Vishal Bhardwaj’s 7th directorial effort. And, he makes a great beginning: First shot, a revolver, second, a haggard Priyanka Chopra holding it to her head; third, shots heard and blood on the wall. Ergo, no time wasted in getting his audience warmed up! But if you thought that the title itself is amply clear on what it offers, i.e. 7 murders, wait; there is a bit of it that is left hanging in the end.
Adapted from Ruskin Bond’s short story “Susanna’s seven husbands”, it moves along the narrative by Arun (Vivaan Shah), who secretly admires his benefactor, Susanna Anna Marie Johannes (Priyanka Chopra) as she goes though a series of weddings. It is a tale of Susanna’s tryst with love and disappointment with each of her husbands who meet their doom when they don’t match up!
The men are introduced; there is romance, then repulsion followed by death. The first is a cruel, suspicious and impotent army man ‘Adamkhor Major’ (Neil Nitin Mukesh) followed by plagiarizing rocker addicted to drugs ‘Ek Duje Ke Liye’ (John Abraham). She finds her third in
Fourth of them is a two-timing Russian spy ‘Amar Prem’ marrying her to be able to stay in India but having a wife back home (Aleksandr Dyachenko). Fifth, a lustful and corrupt cop ‘Pyaar ki Keemat’ who is hell-bent on marrying her (Annu Kapoor). Most lethal of them all is a doctor who plots to kill her ‘Mushroom da’ (Naseeruddin Shah).
The seventh which is supposed to be a suspense (not revealed here) was possibly the only way the story could have ended. Bhardwaj calls him ‘Prem Pujari’.
The problem here is that the movie doesn’t go deep enough into Susanna’s mind. Barring the sixth guy, there wasn’t enough reason to kill them when she could have simply parted ways. But as the anecdote in the story goes about Susanna killing a menacing dog on her way to school, murder was the only problem solver she knew.
Set in Panchgani, the setting is a large farm-house where horses are bred and has its own chapel. Since the locale is rather secluded, it offers the right scenery for a period flick. The mansion is stuck in stuck in a time-warp as is its narrative forcing the film-makers to voice-over or show news-clips of events to mark the timeline.
Clearly, 7 Khoon Maaf is not a thriller. There is not much of suspense either! She isn’t a femme fatale either. When wronged by all wrong men she falls for, she embodies the quote ‘hell hath no fury as a woman scorned’. But she was strong enough not to give up hope in her hunt for love or to turn herself in for murder. The men too found her charms irresistible ignorant of the fate that awaited them!
The leading lady deserves applause for portraying a complex character driven by passion. Aging from twenties to sixties, Priyanka Chopra looks her part, but her expressions hardly change; probably because her quest for love remained a mirage. Her best is when she laughs menacingly saying ‘this time I will drink his blood’.
Her men had to crunch in as much as they could in the few minutes they had. Annu Kapoor is showcased well as Irrfan Khan and Naseeruddin Shah emerge second best. Neil Nitin Mukesh and John Abraham were just about okay. The Russian was forgettable. Vivaan Shah delivers a fine debut performance.
Supporting cast had meatier roles. Usha Uthup as her maid, Shashi Malviya as jockey, Gunga and Harish Khanna as the butler make their presence felt. Ruskin Bond has a cameo and Konkona Sen Sharma is seen in a guest appearance.
Priyanka Chopra has established herself as a serious and multi-faceted actress. But what doesn’t clinch the deal for this flick is that it lacks flow. Also, it hesitates to show murder brutally and relies on flash-backs, slow motions, et al. A bit of editing could have saved it. Nevertheless, for what it is worth and with songs like ‘darling’, ‘bekaraan’ and ‘awaara’, ‘7 Khoon Maaf’ makes for a decent watch.
Rating 6/10: Good acting finishes up with a lame ending