Saturday, March 12, 2011

#81: 7 Khoon Maaf

That Vishal Bhardwaj is an admirer of Ruskin Bond's work is not news. After all he had worked up an absolutely delightful adaptation of Bond's Blue Umbrella in 2005. Somewhere I suspect Vishal likes to adapt stories more than writing fresh material. His filmography will also indicate that his best works, Maqbool, Omkara and The Blue Umbrella have all been adaptations and so it's fair to say 7 Khoon Maaf, that released in February 2011, would've had some seriously high expectations to deal with given that it was based on Ruskin Bond's short story 'Susannah's Seven Husbands'.

The story can be given away in a sentence - a pretty lady kills her husbands- seven of them, one after another. The lady's name is Susannah also deferentially called 'Saheb' by her steadfastedly loyal caretakers. One of those caretakers' son is Arun (Vivaan Shah) the narrator of the story. The caretakers and Arun are the characters that remain common even as Saheb goes through one marriage after another in the hope of a normal marital life. A hope that's marred by traits of possesiveness, deceit and ruthlessness in her husbands- one of them even turning out to be a masochistic wife-beater. This is a movie where performances take second place and one in which the narrative is the real hero. A movie where 7 weddings had to be set and led to the wife being driven mad enough to murder each of her husbands could've taken really long but Vishal Bhardwaj's adept handling restricts the action to a very worthy two and a half hours. His tight screenplay is nothing less than a soothing symphony. Apart from the masterful composition, there's this sombre mood in the air of the movie that lends a poetic touch to the pleasure in the pain of 'Saheb'. So much so, her journey is as gratifying for a viewer as it is for her. The justification of the murders is not just plausible but also one that evokes empathy. The foot-tapping songs are used as instruments in character exposition- so typically Vishal and so typically apt.

Because the cameos by actors as varied as Neil Nitin Mukesh, John Abraham and Naseeruddin Shah amongst others are short, there's only so much you can speak about their performances. The piece-de-resistance however is undoubtedly Annu Kapoor. As the sly, leering and sycophantic cop who is investigating one of the murders, his is a razor-sharp performance. Vivaan Shah impresses as the boy who nurses his childhood crush on 'Saheb' with an earnest performance. The kinds that's like the right amount of sugar in your coffee. And now on to Priyanka Chopra. Performances that age during the course of a movie need to work on counts other than just the makeup. While her role was enacted fairly well, what I thought was missing was the zing beyond the makeup when she was old. When she's telling us as a 65 year-old that 'this time she's going to drink blllooodd', she seems like a 65 year old only because we see her makeup.

There's just one and one flaw that exists in the story of 7 Khoon Maaf. I haven't read the original story so it wouldn't be fair for me to comment on whether it is something that Vishal inherited or omitted from the original story. If someday I happen to speak with him and I get an answer as to why that was that, if just this little question of mine gets answered satisfactorily, I would call this a brilliant movie.

As of now, for 7 Khoon Maaf I am going with an 'immensely satisfying experience'.

Rating: 7.2/10