7 Khoon Maaf Review: Jesus! I feel bored to death. There’s no bell tower nearby to rush to and vent my indignation nor any spouse to bump off. And though I don’t exactly feel like being punished for someone else’s sins, I am overwhelmingly disappointed to see that Vishal Bhardwaj -- the bellwether of the herd of new-age Hindi film-makers, the auteur who so convincingly brought the Bard of Avon to the badlands of UP -- has now strayed into mediocrity with so artless and heartless a film as 7 Khoon Maaf, his seventh directorial work certainly not deserving of a pardon.
Granted that a story so episodic as this could not have been told but linearly. But why, pray, is the jumble of Susanna’s matrimonial misadventures reduced to the incessant yo-yoing between her elation at finding the ‘right’ man and her subsequent dejection at the discovery that he’s actually a scumbag. So while the hubbies are kicked to the famished man-eating panthers, or are drug-overdosed, or snake-bitten, or buried alive, or shot point blank, not once does a yawning viewer see a scrap of ingenuity so expected of a Bhardwaj film.
Of course, the bleakly-lit frames and Susanna’s own darkening complexion serve as metaphors to the dark side of her personality, and Bhardwaj does throw in time-references in the tale -- from the falling of the Berlin wall to the Mumbai terror attacks -- but come on, a viewer expects more than such customary symbolism. Even the film’s music gives the impression that its composer (Bhardwaj) was battling a creative block.
A little heart can be taken from the fact that the actors don’t disappoint. Priyanka sinks her teeth into the complex character of Susanna and delivers a performance that makes you forget the film’s flaws for a while. Ditto for Neil, Anu Irrfan and Naseer. Vivaan Shah, who is Susanna’s protégé and the story’s narrator, makes a confident debut.
After hitting the peak with Blood Brothers (a short film I consider Bhardwaj’s best work to date), Vishal has been on a downslide, first marked by the utterly ordinary Kaminey and now cemented by 7 Khoon Maaf. Is the genius of the maverick careening into mediocrity? Was the dream of a bold new Hindi cinema just a chimera?
One thing is for sure. There’s much worthwhile to do with your time than to watch the gloomy tale of an unscrupulous hubby-slaying woman whom you see whirling like a dervish with no less than the Redeemer in the end.