Sunday, February 20, 2011

Of Disappontment with 7 Khoon Maaf and The Fascinating Seventh Murder


I can't help but feel a bit disappointed after watching 7 Khoon Maaf. It's not that I hated it. It's a nice film, perhaps if any other director would have made it it would have been appreciated but coming from the house of Vishal Bharadwaj, it is sort of underwhelming. Based on the book Susanna's Seven Husbands by Ruskin Bond, 7 Khoon Maaf is story of Susanna who is perhaps, one of the most unlucky persons to get such terrible husbands, not once, not twice but six times! Vishal uses a very simple story telling way, each husband is introduced, his flaw is revealed and then Susanna kills him. So very early on, you get to know how the film will pan out. Kaminey was so much appreciated because of the fact that it did not treat audience as duffer. Vishal used somewhat complicated style in Kaminey to let the audience figure out for themselves as to what is going on. However, 7 Khoon Maaf adopts a very cliched style. Yes, some of it is expected given the nature of the roles but perhaps he could have executed in a better way. As in like, time travel done beautifully in Kill Bill. Or perhaps, he could have delved more into Susanna's character as to why she only kills her husbands? why does she simply not leave them? And how does she cope with them? There was this scene in which her servant tells the story that she never changes her path and narrates the instance when as a kid she killed a dog who came into her way. Or her love for snakes.. I wish they had put some more scenes on her psychology. The film was dragging in a few places and wish it could have been more crisp.
But there are some good things to be spoken about the movie as well.
Priyanka is a fabulous.. I just love her..however, some scenes I felt she was struggling a bit..but still all of it forgiven..she has truly evolved as an actress..starting from Andaaz and now 7 Khoon Maaf..hope her choice of films remains good..
It was very interesting to see the Forensics Lab, fascinating new place which is hardly shown in our movies..
Vivaan Shah is excellent.how silently he pined for Susanna..his Sahib.. wonderful actor..
Vishal makes superb characters and does extensive research..like the scene in which Susanna marries for the sixth time, she has a Bengali wedding.. after that we see that she wears red and white bangles that are a mark of a married Bengali woman..
He also leaves a number of pop cultural references..as in like Susanna's favourite book is 'Anna Karenina'.. and when Arun comes back, we see on the table a book "The Seven Wives of Bluebird".. Early on we see that a book called Looking Ahead is found in the bag of Susanna when Arun is opening her stuff. Or the music that was playing in the background just before Wasiullah urf Musafir was killed..haven't been able to look who was singing but am sure Vishal was referring to some great singer..and of course, he uses newspaper clippings, radio and TV news headlines to tell us which year we are in.. I got reminded of Midnight's Children.. brilliant idea to let audience figure out which year..I am sure I am missing out some others!
Out of the husbands, the least I liked were Annu Kapoor and John Abraham..rest all were nice.. that scene in which Neil points his amputated leg at Susanna, was fabulous.. I thought he is going to kick her..anticipation..brilliant scene..
Or that scene, in which John's college band mate says something like "pehle Sony ko becha aur ab T-Series ko becha..vo O Mata banake bech rahe hai" it was hilarious..
Aur that scene in which Arun says Bharatiya ladkiyon ko guitar bajane vale pasand hai..yeh to gaata bhi tha..
I also like Naseeruddin Shah turning a thief..that was a surprise!
Even Irrfan Khan played a perfect sadist poet..what poetry he versed.. and how different was he in real life..just terrfic that scene in which he keeps on slapping her.. makes you cringe..
But perhaps the best of all was the seventh murder.. she finally embraces Christ and drinks his blood..she realises that inspite of all her flaws, Yeshu will embrace her with open arms..her final redemption would be confess to the one who knows it all..that was perhaps the most haunting scene of the movie that kept playing in my head after I came out..and what place is that when she tells Arun that she will drink his blood in the sea with the waves splashing with the sun setting behind..Pondicherry I think..wonderful cinematography!! I wish there was more of such stuff.. that makes us think!!

And special mention of the music..Darrling is one of the finest songs that we will see this year! But I totally loved Bekaran (what picturisation!!) and Awara (truly haunting!)

Here is what one review said..the full review is here. I completely agree when she says that there was no need to kill the husbands.. a better treatment would have ensured the film some rationalisation!

I suspect one of the key intentions of the director was to look at woman’s quest for love and the disappointment she faces from men for a variety of reasons. We can no doubt see that Susanna is not just looking for love, she is looking for a love that’s perfect. Her first marriage (with Neil Nitin Mukesh) is an arranged one (her father had wished for this union) and she deals with her husband’s insecurities (perhaps resulting from the awareness that she did not ‘choose’ him). The second marriage, that promises youthful happiness and pleasure, is of her choice and she happily agrees to change herself for him (suggested by her ready acceptance of the name Susie for his Jimmy). But here is a man whose directionless youthfulness is his undoing. He cannot appreciate her self-effacing gesture for he has lost his own self in drug-induced hallucinations. Wasiullah Khan (Irrfan Khan), with his poetic sensibility, carrying an air of hurt humanity seems to be the answer till she realizes that his sensitivity remains tied to his intellect never deigning to come down to his physical or emotional self. The Russian husband is the possibility of a stranger or outsider providing love but not knowing a person has its own pitfalls. By the time the outsider is discarded, some disillusionment has already occurred. So this time when Officer Keemat Lal (Annu Kapur) offers a Teddy Bear (romantic love) with one hand while hiding a Viagra (lust) in the other, it is not difficult for Susanna to call his bluff. The possibility of young innocent love (Arun) is no longer available to her for she has already eaten of the apple, so to say. With the sixth husband it’s no longer a question of love/lust/pain/betrayal; it is a question of life and death and Susanna chooses life.



Now the same material with a lighter treatment and it may have been possible to understand it better at least on a symbolic level. You would now have Susanna only as a tool to examine this quest without any individualized, detailed characterization. Her various marriages would have been attempts to find love and the killings would not have been literal but a mere discarding of possibilities that failed. The episodes with various husbands could have acquired more meaning. The climax of the film – that is brilliant in its conception – would then come to life – it took Susanna almost a lifetime, but she finally realizes that the perfection or truth she is looking for is impossible to find in the material, male-dominated world. It is in religion that she finds the last and final husband, for Christ can not only offer eternal love, he’ll offer it to an imperfect being like her.

The reason Saat Khoon Maaf sends out confusing signals is because Susanna’s motives are unclear and muddied. That takes the force out of the narrative, giving it a rambling quality. Her husbands also come out more as stereotypes than individuals. Vishal Bhardwaj saves his film from becoming a sensational thriller and has all the right intentions but he has not succeeded in making Saat Khoon Maaf either a narrative or stylistic treat.

1 comment:

  1. Nicely put...i agree to most of what you stated here :)

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