Sunday, February 27, 2011

7 Khoon Maaf (2011) DVDScr



Vomanet, Scotland Yard's chief in the 1950s, G. H. Hatherill is said to have flippantly remarked, "There are only about 20 murders a year in London and many not at all serious - some are just husbands killing their wives." One wonders if this was the prevailing 1950s sentiment: wives were expendable, deserving of such dispatch, and replaceable. In 2011 we have an admirable gender reversal in the juicy Vishal Bhardwaj black comedy "7 Khoon Maaf", wherein Susanna Anna-Marie Johannes (embodied enthusiastically by Priyanka Chopra at her sultriest) displays a penchant for marrying and murdering her husbands as they prove unworthy of her.

Based on "Susanna's Seven Husbands", a short story by prolific Indo-Anglian writer Ruskin Bond, "7 Khoon Maaf" (literally "Seven Murders Forgiven") is cheerfully empathetic of Susanna's quandary: she enters into matrimony with every intention of loving, honoring, and cherishing her husbands until Death does them part, but what's a gal to do when the husband reveals himself to be a lying, cheating, thieving, duplicitous son of a bitch? Why, off him, of course, is the pragmatic solution, arrived at after a decent amount of soul-searching.


I reveled in this sophisticated wickedly funny take on resolving marital crises, and I'm deeply grateful to Vishal Bhardwaj for such a delicious film experience. Can you believe it? Three excellent Hindi films in two months: "No One Killed Jessica", "Dhobi Ghat", and now, "7 Khoon Maaf" – this is rapidly making up for the Hindi film industry's gag-inducing output of 2010.

Susanna is orphaned, prodigiously wealthy, blessed with tawny sex appeal and a wardrobe that tastefully showcases her lovely bosom and long legs. Her daddy left her a vast estate in picturesque post-colonial Coorg, a stable full of prize-winning race horses, and, most importantly, three loyal to the death retainers. These three—a Muslim butler, a large and loving housekeeper Maggie Auntie, and a mute pint-sized jockey Goonga—run her household and estate with dazzling efficiency. But their special genius lies in vermin extermination as evidenced whenever Susanna's husband du jour proves to be inconvenient or in any way unsuitable.

Around the time Susanna is being wooed by Husband No.1, a dashing army captain, Goonga the mute jockey adopts an orphan boy, who earns his keep doing odd jobs. Susanna, smitten by the lad's smarts, daring, and general adorability, decides he should attend school. More than any of her husbands, he turns out to be the love of her life, and it is he who narrates the story of Susanna's many marital mishaps, and final undoing. The boy, Arun, goes from wide-eyed naïf who idolizes Susanna (quite literally – he prays daily to her photograph concealed behind one of that other fierce goddess of the Hindu pantheon, Durga) to a bespectacled forty-five year-old husband, father, and practitioner of forensic medicine who gives evidence that Susanna, after being widowed so very many times, is herself finally dead. Or is she?

Arun is a plum role, spanning a large dramatic arc, for the character goes from harboring an ardent schoolboy crush and aspiring to marry Susanna to appreciating the generosity of his benefactress, but not being blind to her rather deadly faults. Susanna's interest in him traverses from the maternal, initially, to playfully flirtatious to—over the years—seriously weighing his potential as a love/lust object. It's a relationship calling for delicacy in depiction, and it's handled exquisitely by director Bhardwaj, Priyanka Chopra, and wonderful first-time actor Vivaan Shah.

Shah, all of 21 and about to graduate with an Arts degree, is the younger son of acting stalwarts Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak. Vivaan projects a maturity beyond his years, besides possessing good looks, and an ingratiating screen presence. First, as the orphan relying on wits and winsomeness to get by in the world, and later as the conflicted husband compelled to reveal his most intriguing past to his wife, Vivaan negotiates his way with aplomb, never letting on once this daunting role is his first. Not every newcomer gets to romance—right off the bat—two of India's most beguiling actresses: Vivaan is paired with both Priyanka Chopra and Konkana Sen Sharma.

Any film that deals with so many marriages must have a frank approach to sex, and director Bhardwaj includes many bawdy and sometimes very funny sex scenes between Susanna and her many husbands. Susanna recognizes her sexual hold on men; she reinvents herself seven times into each husband's ultimate dream woman. The seven deadly sins manifest in one form or other in the husbands, and the romance and sex vary accordingly, ranging from gothically gruesome with husband no. 1, to rock star boisterousness with husband no. 2, to cruelly violent with another, to risibly randy with a goatish older intelligence officer, to exotically charming and multilingual with a debonair Russian suitor.

Priyanka Chopra gives a nuanced, knowing, and unabashedly sexy performance as Susanna. Her dusky sensuality has never before been so effectively deployed in service of a character, but she wouldn't be as sexy if she weren't so smart. Chopra lets us see Susanna's intelligence—the biggest turn-on. Susanna is always a step ahead of her hapless husbands. Pitiful and weak, they clearly do not merit so much woman, so her homicidal instincts are almost laudable.

The husbands do a fine job, and Vishal Bhardwaj has assembled a terrific cast of lovers for Ms. Chopra to lock horns with. Neil Nitin Mukesh impresses as the bullying gimp, as do Irrfan Khan, Annu Kapoor, and Aleksandr Dyachenko. John Abraham camps it up as an Axl Rose-kind of head-banger, kitted out in stringy blond wig and kilt, while Naseeruddin Shah mixes seduction with menace as the husband Susanna encounters late in life.

Usha Uthup and the two actors playing Susanna's trio of accomplices were simply marvelous, and I couldn't wait to discover how each new disappointment of a husband would meet his demise. Love kills, indeed, and murder and mayhem were never so much fun!

Info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1629376/
Release Date: 18 February 2011 (India)
Genre: Drama | Mystery
Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Neil Nitin Mukesh, John Abraham
Quality: DVDScr
Subtitle: Indonesia, English (N/A)
Sinopsis:
A story of a woman who kills all seven husbands.


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