Friday, February 18, 2011

Saat Khoon Maaf 

Murder She Said

A woman in search of true love, marries and kills six ‘unsatisfactory’ husbands, with the help of her loyal staff. 

There was potential for dark humour, delicious irony, social comment and pungent drama; what the usually surefooted Vishal Bhardwaj delivers is an overlong, dour and simplistic rendition of Ruskin Bond’s story Susanna’s Seven Husbands.

Susanna (Priyanka Chopra), sexy, smart and generous, keeps falling in love with the wrong kind of man—authoritarian (Neil Nitin Mukesh), unfaithful (John Abraham), sadistic (Irrfan Khan), perfidious (Alexandr Dyachenko), opportunistic (Annu Kapoor), greedy (Naseeruddin Shah); the seventh is a ‘surprise.’  She doesn’t believe in divorce—it’s the easy way out, explains her trusty butler,  she always takes the tough option.

Susanna, however, doesn’t come across as tough, but just desperate and needy.  Since there is no hint of tongue-in-cheek here, or even a trace of satire on the single woman’s fear of loneliness, social censure or sheer financial necessity (Susanna is inexplicably rich), ultimately the film seems pointless.  As played by Priyanka Chopra, all pouty lips, teary-eyed and coy, she is not even a femme fatale—the portrayal of the character needed a lot more darkness, mischief and bravado.  Still, Priyanka has dared to do it, and to an extent, pulled it off.

Bhardwaj has cast an exciting bunch of actors as the husbands, but none of them leaves any impact, so the one who will walk away with all the praise is young Vivaan Shah, as Susanna’s stable boy and house help, whom she adopts, and who worships her in return.

The excessive length, slow pace, and straightforward narrative, makes Saat Khoon Maaf a difficult watch.  You feel worse because of the lost opportunity for giving a woman a voice and position of strength in a largely patriarchal society.  It’s  rarely one sees an angry young woman on screen—and it may be a spoiler, but Susanna doesn’t even kill most of the guys herself. Which is not to suggest that murder is a suitable option to get rid of a bad husband, but as a symbolic device with more imagination and flair and this film could have been almost cathartic for so many women.


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