Saturday, February 26, 2011

Seven Dead Husbands and a Live Film

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. 


Heera said...

i saw this.. yday... darling.. ekdum mast mast mast

Arun said...

It was a boring movie for me, sorry. The plot is known from the title itself, but is reiterated clearly at several parts of the movie, so you just wait for all murders to finish, suffering all the boring cliches on the way. Comments like "indian girls love guys who play a guitar" or the real world-story correlation a la Forest gump and several others (India's nuclear bomb, Hijacking of Indian Airlines flight, Sandeep Unnikrishnan etc) doesn't help either. Just a bollywood film. IMHO. - Arun

Sudeep said...

Arun, boring is a relative term :) Not knowing the plot beforehand is not the only virtue of a film. (By that argument everyone knew Omkara was Othello, so there was nothing in that film.) It is technically better than most Bollywood films.

Even if one agrees for an argument that it is "just a Bollywood film", how many Bollywood films have shown women as people who can do murders? (Even Firaaq takes a "soft" position and shows women as "helpless" creatures who cannot stand when their men indulge in killings.)

It is rarely that women get someone on the screen that they can cheer for. They usually have a lot of characters, acts that they want to hoot out, but very few can afford to do that. (Two of my friends had hooted Ayaal Kathayezhuthukayaanu in a movie hall in Kerala.)

I cheered for Susanna as well.

Arun said...


My knowledge of Bollywood movies are very limited, I rarely see them, may be that's why I found this one boring :-) Due to the same reason, I cannot comment if this is one of the very few Bollywood movies in which a woman kills someone.

But, doesnt Jism, Gangster and Kasoor have women killers? I havent seen these films, just know part of the stories.

Anyway, while I am unsure about Bollywood, in Malayalam I can remember this stock character who kills the man who is attempting to rape her with a piece of broken glass bottle.

Now. Even if this was such a landmark movie in terms of woman being the murderer, that doesnt by itself make it an interesting or good movie for the viewer. For me it was a boring movie full of cliches and Bollywoodish pretty pictures. Like I said, perhaps I am not very familiar with Bollywood.


Arun said...

Another one I remember is Humraaz.

But there are more, I think. Please check:

Sudeep said...

Arun, even if we add the titles that you mentioned (I haven't seen those films) -- and you may add Tashan to the list if you like -- that still makes only a handful of films, of the thousands of Bollywood films till date. So I think those films do stand apart for that one reason itself.

Now, I don't think Saat Khoon Maaf is a good film only because of that. Nikhat Kazmi reviewed the film in the Times of India, and gave it four stars. He said: "..if you aren't mistakenly looking for entertainment here, you are going to love this half-lit canvas of crime and punishment which lays bare the innermost recesses of a tortured soul. Vishal never once slips and lets go of his hold on this intense study of grief and grime. From the very first shot, which explodes with a grimacing Priyanka pulling the trigger on God-knows-who, the director inexorably draws you into this welter of passion and crime."

I agree partly with that. In addition to exploring the passion of love and crime, I felt it also entertains, if one could enjoy (and cheer) the sequence of events that unfold.

A friend of mine said on facebook: "i got exited after watching the film....
"Duniya ke saare galath aadmi meri hi zindagi mein kyon aaye hein..."
I liked this dialogue.... :)"

-- I guess that comes from someone who could identify with the lead character. We usually enjoy films when we identify with what the "hero" does. In this case, it may be difficult for men to "enjoy" this film in that sense, but it does offer that kind of entertainment to a lot of viewers.

(Interestingly enough, everyone who commented on my facebook status about this film were women).

Red Handed said...

The movie started well but was too long and draggy to be enjoyed. Priyanka and her dancing with Jesus did not seem to be touching or moving. It was obsolete. the music was a pain in the ear especially the rock thing. But something worth a compliment was her acting, for that matter everyone's acting.

new to check out mind if you can

Sudeep said...

Thanks Red Handed for the comment and for the blog. I liked the music except for the Rock number :) Daarling Aankhon Se.. was very good.

Red Handed said...

Would like some comments and if worthy a followup :)