Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

February 19, 2011

Death and the maiden

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 2:03 am

February 18, 2011

Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Neil Nitin Mukesh, John Abraham, Irrfan Khan, Aleksandr Dyachenko, Annu Kapoor, Naseeruddin Shah, Vivaan Shah, Usha Uthup

Director: Vishal Bhardwaj

Saat Khoon Maaf, directed by Vishal Bhardwaj, is a dark and daring film, but one that’s ultimately disappointing. Fleshed out from a short story by Ruskin Bond titled Susanna’s Seven Husbands, the film stars Priyanka Chopra as a woman whose unending search for love takes her into the arms of men that are wrong for her. Half a dozen spouses that are bumped off one by one when they fail her.

The original story by Ruskin Bond is fertile ground for a thrilling black comedy, but Saat Khoon Maaf becomes predictable early on, when the screenplay falls into a set pattern. Bhardwaj adopts a simplistic, linear narrative, and the episodic nature of the plot allows for barely any surprises. So each husband is introduced, his chink quickly revealed, and his death neatly executed.

You have the possessive one-legged army-man, a drugged-out rockstar, a sexually sadistic Urdu poet, a two-timing Russian spy, a lust-driven ageing police officer, and an old-fashioned natural pharmacist. Few of them, however, have any scope to make a lasting impression, although such formidable talents as Irrfan Khan and Naseeruddin Shah occupy two of those roles.

Boring isn’t a word you’d normally associate with a Vishal Bhardwaj film, but Saat Khoon Maaf seriously tests your patience. The episodes don’t link with each other seamlessly, and the director moves on quickly from one to the next, never giving us a sense of reflection or regret (if any) on Susanna’s part after committing a murder.

Priyanka Chopra dives courageously into her role, sacrificing vanity and pride to play Susanna at different ages of her life and in often humiliating conditions. Vivaan Shah shines as Susanna’s adopted godson who watches her throw away her dignity and pines for her silently as she goes from one wrong husband to the next.

Using tools like newspaper headlines, radio announcements and television bulletins to root this mostly surreal film in reality, Vishal Bhardwaj delivers his oddest film yet, that is also sadly his weakest.

I’m going with two out of five for Saat Khoon Maaf. The highlight of this film is that excellent Darling number. The rest is just a blur.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

34 Comments »

  1. And we have the second hit of the year.

    Comment by Kunal — February 19, 2011 @ 2:10 am

  2. poor review….

    Comment by John — February 19, 2011 @ 2:24 am

  3. hi… i liked the film…i think it deserves a -star rating… the screenplay was nt that bad either…. but have to agree…this is nt vishal bharadwaj’s best..but definitely priyanka’s best.

    Comment by anurag — February 19, 2011 @ 7:37 am

  4. sorry sir, dont agree with your review. if critics like you whom the people respect so much, dont encourage such films, thn i dont know how the industry will see a change. u should hv given more stars just for the attempt to select such a story and make a film out of it.. sometimes an attempt has to be applauded, and i dont think it was a bad attempt at all.. i m a professional from this industry and i would know how difficult it would be to adapt such a story for the big screen and especially for the indian audience.. i think it deserved more.. i m one of ur biggest fans but u disappointed me sir this time.. thanks

    Comment by vishal furia — February 19, 2011 @ 8:18 am

  5. Its official,the man who delivered gems like omkara,maqbool and even maqdee has run out of ideas.i have always thought kaminey was
    way overrated and was sceptical of 7khoon maaf.another director making
    artistic compromise for making a commercial cinema.

    i liked him way better when he made Indie movies.

    Comment by imran — February 19, 2011 @ 8:52 am

  6. And please get rid of priyanka

    Comment by imran — February 19, 2011 @ 10:06 am

  7. I enjoyed the movie, though it could have been more interesting with a few unexpected turns and a sense of “next what?”
    Priyanka Chopra was a delight & so was Vivan Shah.
    Konkona is a fine actress but she is same in each and every film of hers. Shs’e got stuck in the same image. Such a talented actress, with Mr & ,rs Iyer, 15 Park Avenue & now this movie, Luck by chance, Page 3, Wake up sid… she looks all the same….

    Comment by nandini — February 19, 2011 @ 10:07 am

  8. i liked it so much, i thought u would give atleast 3 stars,i also like priyanka,irfaan,anukapoor and especially vivvan shah’s(dilog dilivery,and voice)acting .ending was really nicely captured.

    Comment by chintan — February 19, 2011 @ 10:29 am

  9. I always wait for your review before deciding to watch a film. This time I watched the film first and then read your review and I am glad I did so. I don’t disagree with everything you say but I liked the movie due to following reasons.
    After a long time there is a movie which is based on a story. Yes its an adaptation of Ruskin Bond’s work but then films should be made on good script and so this time we have a great script writer. And it should not be compared to the original short story written by Bond.
    Then there is a movie which does not show plastic people and plastic world unlike most of indian movies. Priyanka chopra has done a great job in I portraying herself as she did in the film with all the ugliness, lines, circles, flakyness…..of real people unlike a typical hindi film herione who would always look beautiful even if torchered in a cell by a vilian.
    The music the mood created by Bharwaj was enchanting and goes so well with the story, the plot of the film. The murky darkness adds so much to the flavour of the film, you cannot narate such a story in bright sun light or in open flieds of green.
    The film is a watch for the performances. I was amazed to see even John Abraham doing a decent job. All the short roles of Husband’s were played beautifully by the respective people.(definatley we have some great actors here)
    Last and the most important thing is that this film is such a relief from the typical hindi films. You say the film becomes prdictable after some time I would say its still better than all hindi films being predictable. Be it a comedy film or a drama you see the trailer and you have seen the complete film. This is a real hatke film which Indian audiences so badly need.

    Comment by Mukul Agarwal — February 19, 2011 @ 8:45 pm

  10. hi,
    How could you give this movie 2 stars cmon Mr.masand ! priyanka was brilliant, i loved all the husbands, their characters were so well played, i was extremely glad that the 6 husbands stories were short and sweet, something that is unusual in our cinema, the songs were brilliant and i was captivated throughout. ofcourse we knew she d kill them all…..what do you mean by predictable ??? that is the name of the freaking movie ! but how she killed them….that was osum 🙂 vishal bhradwaj has done a great job….he even made john act for gods sake…. this should have got at least 3 stars easily…

    Comment by Divya — February 20, 2011 @ 10:55 am

  11. i wont watch this movie!….coz i hate priyankas monkey looks!..i bet she needs another dozens surgery’s to look decent

    Comment by shabin — February 20, 2011 @ 5:39 pm

  12. It’s really funny – the fact that you have given ‘tees maar khan’, the same rating as ‘7 khoon maaf’. I don’t think the two films can remotely be of the same level; let alone be compared. I know it’s an individual “OPINION” as you always point out, but, the point is, over the last few days, I have come around to highly doubt your criticism. Even though it hardly matters, you have surely lost out a few credential points from my side.
    I hope that you come around to being the usual “RELIABLE” critic that everyone is used to hearing.

    Comment by Anuj — February 20, 2011 @ 10:10 pm

  13. You are right Rajeev…I go with you. The movie has got nothing right except the technical stuff…and I, watched the movie in first place just for the song – DARLING…!

    Comment by Ananth — February 20, 2011 @ 11:09 pm

  14. Usually,i read your reviews first, then i go to watch the film……….but thankfully this time i watched it before hearing your words……….. obviosly,i m nt at all agree wid your review,and nt wid rating too…….

    Comment by Swapnil — February 21, 2011 @ 4:58 pm

  15. Rajeev…..I feel you only like SRK movies and gave best rating in spite of being they doesn’t deserve…..The movie is not as bad as you reviewed……..3.5 star..

    Comment by Amit — February 21, 2011 @ 7:54 pm

  16. U knw Rajeev… i thought u were a really good critic … better than those pro-shahrukh pro -yash chopra idiots who knw almost nothing about understanding the technicalities of movie makin… i likd u for the fact tht u seemed to hit the nail as far as pointing out the nonsense part of a movie…but this time… I pity ur understanding…

    Thank God u did not lay ur verdict on legends like GONE WITH THE WIND , INGLORIOUS BASTARDS or a OCTOBER SKY.. u wud have easily called them PAINFULLY SLOW… my friend !

    SAAT KHOON MAAF is a milestone movie in terms of a original adaptation, interesting characters and brilliant (can repeat the word thousand times) direction… Priyanka is marvellous… all the ensemble cast is so bloody refreshing… this movie is going to inspire many a art directors nd set designers too

    Please Rajeev… watch 7 khoon maaf once again… go to the nuances … u will love it … nd if u cant appreciate… behold ur words !!

    Comment by Saurabh — February 22, 2011 @ 1:46 pm

  17. i dont agree with u.Its a very good movie,for me its 3.5

    Comment by Abhishek — February 22, 2011 @ 7:12 pm

  18. mr masand.. I regularly follow and compare my opinion with yours and find mostly similar. But first time disagree as I feel movie was quite awesome and worth a watch. A unique flavour for Indian audience.

    Comment by sushant arora — February 22, 2011 @ 8:43 pm

  19. tumne aise kitni movie bana li hain jo ye comment dete ho…critics job is the most easiest job….movie was perfect and performances was too perfect …

    Comment by rikita — February 23, 2011 @ 1:53 am

  20. The film could have been wonderful. ‘Could’ is the word here. And it was not because the director probably kept in mind an Indian audience to placate. And it seems he is successful.

    We do not like to think. We like it simple yet masaaledar.

    I could not call this film a no-brainer entertainer. I could not call it comedy (when did I laugh out loud or when did I appreciate any dark sense of humour?). I could not call it tragedy (when did I weep when anyone was beat up or killed? when did I even get a lump in my throat?) I could not call it mysterious, unusual (the story would have been a bit nice if it would have been original, but alas!)

    This was an adaptation, he had the story ready with him, but could not execute it well.

    The only shot that stirred up something inside me was when Suzzana and her one of the husbands dance in the snow. Round and round and round…

    Comment by Darlinggg — February 23, 2011 @ 10:09 am

  21. Predictable screenplay? Correct…
    Could have been more fun if there were twists…
    Climax has compensated for some of the dullness in the screenplay…
    Not a bad effort though…you could have spared one more star…just for the sake of courage on the part of director…

    Comment by Amit — February 23, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

  22. sir i have immense respect for ur views about cinema but i cant help but wonder, recently, you’ve ben very critical hindi movies and sometimes overtly critical.. for 7 khoon maaf i couldn’t believe u gave 2 stars.. and after watching the movie i was flabbergasted u gave 2 stars.. it deserves 4 atleast.. easily priyanka’s top notch performance and vishal bharadwaj has once again proved he is th master of dark movies.. i liked the movie so much i watched it on two consecutive days.. hope you will soon be back to being a good critic we love to follow than overtly critical critic that we might avoid..

    Comment by Harsha — February 23, 2011 @ 8:25 pm

  23. I’m utterly disappointed with ur review…using the line of argument that you have adopted for this film, i believe that you should have slammed ‘My Name is Khan’. I also feel that you tend to give brownie points to most hollywood flicks…..for instance, you didn’t even bother to talk about the ‘overt sexism’ in the film :social Network.
    I believe that the very theme of ‘Saat Khoon Maaf’ was an inversion of the conventional power-equation between ‘genders’…and the very fact that Susanna continues to live even after bumping off 6 husbands, and eventually accepts communion in Christ…is very symbolic.

    Comment by naina — February 24, 2011 @ 4:01 pm

  24. Sir,

    I wont agree with your review. This is actually a very good film. The scene to scene connection of this film has been taken nicely. Films like this comes once in a year and I think you should not discourage those films. Withour any bias I am saying that this is a good film.

    The direction is ok and camera work in this film is excellent. Acting is good. Cast is good. This film must be promoted.

    Comment by SARATH — February 25, 2011 @ 11:13 am

  25. I think 3/5 wud have been a better rating sir!!!its a very dark film n not meant for everyone but definitely can be seen once!!!priyanka is at her very best n “the darling song” is surely the highlight of the movie!!!bt the bad part is that the better stories out of the 7 are in the later part of the film!!!

    Comment by Ranjan — February 25, 2011 @ 9:42 pm

  26. I saw the film and agree partly with ur views. Priyanka acted well, but the film wasnt thrilling enuff. Everyone knew husbands would be killed, the way it wld be done wld have added sum thrill. Also, one of the best dialogues I saw in the promo. “I m gonna hv to kill u, but then i’ll hv to marry u” was not there in the film. Ending is abrupt but still ok considering the kind of film it was. But seriously, the line before the interval ” 4 more to go….” was like a warning to the audience ! The episodic treatment of bumping of the husbands was another bad treatment to the potentially fantastic script. And personally, I feel it was lack of thrill which drove the film down. So, I wld say not bad but cld hv been better. Btw, ppl said once more wen Priyanka slapped herself in Irfan’s story. Lol. I think she acted well though. She needs a good director to bring out the performance. Hated her in anjana anjani though. Also, the ppl seated in front of my seats in the row ahead, disappeared after the interval. Lol.

    Comment by Ryan — February 26, 2011 @ 12:26 am

  27. i wont completely agree with the review having seen the movie now.The movie is a definite one time watch and could have been more illustrative and dramatic in the killing sequences.Overall its an ok movie and deserves a 3star.

    Comment by jagdish — February 27, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

  28. Testing Patience?

    I thought VB has extended himself superbly with 7KM. Dint we have a Tim Burton mated to Coen Bros here!?

    Comment by PP — February 28, 2011 @ 2:11 am

  29. I’m sorry but this review was a little harsh. I didnt watch this movie because u gave it such bad reviews but today i took a risk and went anyways because of the goodwill Mr. Bhardwaj has made with his earlier films and i wasnt disappointed at all. You might argue that’s because you already lowered my expectations and maybe u r right but still i think this was an original piece of work and something that shd be encouraged by people like us who are tired of a love story every week. You dropped the ball on this one.

    Comment by amit — February 28, 2011 @ 2:14 am

  30. for the first time cog-wheel of my review,thoughts completely cogged with rajeev masand’s.he is right,if you have not many films in your buckets especially to drive you into your ennui,then this film fits the bill.if it is a bollywood film and lacks in pathos then lags far behind too quickly in the matter of raking up.irrespective of that this film firmly and utterly missing the compulsive viewing and conscience-striking performance.

    Comment by abhisek das — March 1, 2011 @ 9:34 pm

  31. I respected u so much Mr Masand….but 2 stars to this amazing movie has left me in doubt of ur credentials…by far this has been the best movie made in recent times…vishal bhardwaj u rock man…irrespective of what people say …u r one of the best movie makers india has discovered …thanks for making a gem of a movie ….cheers..!!!!

    Comment by deepak — March 5, 2011 @ 6:24 pm

  32. i saw the movie as a different perspective. It shows different cultures, conventions, and traditions of different society the way general people look at it. Though a bad sex guy doesn’t mean to be like them, a life with an army officer may not be satisfactory in the same way, a rock star is not always a dope but the do it all in the eyes of general people. On top of it they show how a person’s interest changes by time and how he can go to any level to achieve that. For me the movie would have been really awesome if they would have stopped right after the 7th death is shown, as there is nothing much to know about the character’s life, as it’s all fiction. If they would have done it the same way then, the abruptness seen in the changing moods of the protagonist would have given another message to the society to the improbableness of the same events or else if the probability is there how they should deal with the consequences.

    Thank You

    Comment by Ashis — March 15, 2011 @ 3:05 am

  33. This time you taste like ‘new coke’ Rajeev. You can call a spade by other names too. I dint like d movie. WORSE:- I dint like your review! Write for us, not for yourself, Rajeev.

    Comment by ROCKETSINGH@IFB — March 22, 2011 @ 8:49 am

  34. hi,

    I m not agree with u. 7 khoon maaf was not as much bad. scene between priynka and nsiruddin shah was excellent…….I think it was the best performance of priynka…..

    Comment by anand sharma — May 20, 2011 @ 7:41 pm

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