Saat Khoon Maaf tells the story of Susanna and her seven dead husbands. Based on the story Susanna's Seven Husbands by Ruskin Bond, Vishal Bharadwaj gives us a film that outperforms all his previous films.
It takes patience to sit through the first 10-15 minutes of the film. But that is true with any Vishal Bharadwaj film -- including the much celebrated Omkaara and Kaminey. I did not watch Omkaara in a movie hall, so I purchased a CD. I tried watching it several times, but it did not move beyond the first 20 minutes. For more than a year the film remained unwatched :-) (I first thought it was my problem, but later a friend shared a similar experience with Omkaara.)
But as one survives those initial hiccups, there is realization that it was worth it. What awaits us is an experience that we have not had on Indian screen yet. Priyanka does a great job as a woman who keeps seeking love, and so does her associates. Those who came to watch a serial killer Priyanka are in for a disappointment. Because she is not the kind of "killer" we are familiar with.
Her husbands do not have much screen length, but they also do their parts well. Niel Nitin Mukesh, the Russian actor and Annu Kapoor get the meatier roles among them, and they make good use of it. (Now I think I know why Mohanlal refused to act in this film -- he was offered the role of the husband who dies of Viagra overdose.) Irffan Khan's character could have been developed better. That one episode appears unconvincing compared to others.
The male viewers would feel jealous of Vivaan Shah's character. Susanna is in love with him -- so much that she never marries him.
In an interview given to Indian Express, Ruskin Bond had said that "My only regret will be, I couldn’t be cast as one of Ms Chopra’s seven husbands. Guess I am too old for that." He makes it up by playing a cameo in the film.
Bandini, Mother India and Ek Haseena Thi are three other prominent fictional Hindi films that told stories of women who kill others. It would be interesting to study Saat Khoon Maaf in contrast with them.