Tuesday, March 1, 2011

7 Reasons to avoid 7 KHOON MAAF (2011)

Scorned in love, a woman takes it upon herself to avenge her crushed expectations by taking the lives of her husbands …. all seven (arguable) of them. The trailers were promising. Darrrling was a sensation. The premise sounded like an outrageous cocktail of blood-drenched feminist porn. And putting it all together was Vishal Bharadwaj, who’d previously given us those memorable lyrically violent takes on Othello and Macbeth, a haunted fairy tale in Makdee and a haunting little fable in The Blue Umbrella, then topped it all off with the Tarantino-Bollywood burlesque of Kaminey. This was a man who could do no wrong, and this was a movie that simply couldn’t fail.

Which is why it was so heartbreaking to watch this trainwreck slowly unravelling the course of a painful two hours fifteen minutes. There’s underwhelming, and then there’s plain painful. Anyway, with apologies for the delayed review, or rather, rant, here are 7 reasons to avoid 7 Khoon Maaf :

1) The entire John Abraham storyline - the one where his “Jimmy da rocker!!!” wears blond wigs, scottish kilts, and plays horrifying games of chor-police with dimwitted tramps - is simply one of the more painful cinematic sequences to torture a paying audience in recent memory.

No Mama …. No.

2) Priyanka Chopra does the Khwaja-mere-Khwaja dance around the good lord Jesus. Who then promptly joins her. It goes on for about as long as it did in Jodha-Akbar.

3) Neil Nitin Mukesh is mauled to death by a tiger from the animated jungle book. I don’t care about animal rights defenders, it violates my human rights to have to keep a straight face through a sequence where a murderous glowing purple tiger leaps towards amputee-Neil.

4) Vishal Bharadwaj has forged a solid reputation for being a true auteur. He’s known for constructing his movies from the bottom up, part of which involves creating some truly sparkling dialogues. This was the man who gave us the 2 hour running linguistic joke that was Kaminey, not to mention the frothily filthy lingo that gave Omkara so much of its raw power. None of that screenplay writing talent is visible here. 7 Khoon Maaf instead chooses to revel in cringe inducing cliches : I almost choked when “Keemat lal” returns Priyanka Chopra’s “keemti cheez” to her. The joke’s clearly on us for having to sit through that.

5) That whole auteur thing ? Also missing in the basic direction of the movie. The ploddingly linear narrative required some bit of Bharadwaj’s maverick direction to make the wheels of the plot spin, to make it flow, to have some sense of forward momentum. Instead, what we have here is a lazily edited, statically directed mess. Evoking a great sense of atmosphere does not a watchable movie make.

6) Because, well, Susanna, the heart and soul of the movie, simply isn’t a very well thought out character. When you’re going to make her murderous spree the very core of the movie, you jolly well give us more insight than a pithy monologue by the faithful butler informing us about her shooting a mad dog that got in her way. Okay, so the men are equivalent to mad dogs then ?

Thanks Susanna, thanks.

I could’ve watched a movie about a pathological killer who revels in the joy of murder, which is obviously what Susanna probably was. OR, I could’ve possibly endured the story of a woman fundamentally wronged in love, who, as a Professor put it, suffers from a victimhood complex that subconsiously causes her to seek out men who will wrong her. Even that would’ve worked.

The fact that I have alternate takes on where this movie could have gone when I should have been busy paying attention to the murderous happenings onscreen is not just a testament to creative failure on Bharadwaj’s part, it also painfully illuminates that just a little more thought could have made this into the cinematic spectacle it deserved to be.

7) Well, okay, I don’t have a clear seventh reason, but if the movie can cheat about the seventh husband, so can I.

Echoing a now popular joke on this movie, the seventh murder was obviously that of the audience’s time.

Now that I’ve said all that though, here’s the other side of this take : the movie that we were hoping for, the unabashed masterpiece that should have been, very occasionally peeks out from under the debris of what Bharadwaj has assembled. It comes out in the hilariously dark camera cut from a wedding in a church to a funeral in the same place, in the intense atmosphere of dread that is conjured in scenes like the one where the brutal amputee strokes his wife’s face with his stump of a leg, or in the visceral, almost-exploitative-but-still-shocking sequences with Irrfan Khan’s sadomasochistic poet.

In those isolated bits, you recall a director that was capable of handling a story of this calibre, a man of vision and ambition, who was, and who will continue to remain one of our most exciting directors, regardless of this clunker.

Fine, Bharawaj. This one maaf. Don’t mess up again, though.

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