It takes a really keen eye to visualise a film in a short story. Then to turn it into a full-fledged film is a different task altogether. And Vishal Bharadwaj has done exactly that to Ruskin Bond's short story, Susanna's Seven Husbands. It's a commendable effort as he has crafted a body (7 KHOON MAAF) out of a skeleton (Susanna's Seven Husbands).
Love knows no boundaries and the vivacious Susanna Anna-Marie Johannes (Priyanka Chopra) is an apt example. 7 KHOON MAAF is her quest for true love. In a span of 35 odd years, she marries as many as seven times. Her husbands include Major Edwin Rodriques (Neil Nitin Mukesh), singer Jimmy Stetson (John Abraham), poet Wasiullah Khan (Irrfan Khan), Moscow resident Nicolai Vronsky (Aleksandr Dyachenko), police officer Keemat Lal (Anu Kapoor), Doctor Modhusudhon Tarafdar (Naseeruddin Shah) and one more (who can't be revealed as it would be spoiler). Arun (Vivaan Shah, son of Naseeruddin Shah) is the narrator, who considers Susanna as her prem devi. The bizarre deaths of her husbands make Sussane the prime suspect.
Vishal Bharadwaj's 7 KHOON MAAF is simpler when compared with his previous film KAMINEY, but getting into the intricacies would mean giving away the entire thing. He gets on with the story and doesn't waste any time in establishing the characters. We get to know more about the characters as the story progresses. The narrative is intriguing and slowly grows on you. It makes you wonder, what would you do if you were in Susanna's shoes.
Vishal veer's away from showing anything gory. Of all the tracks, the Wasiullah Khan part stands out and is most outrageous. The film gets a bit predictable after a while but the engaging screenplay makes sure that there aren't any dull moments. The gradual ageing of Susanna from a 20 to 65 year-old is deftly shown.
On the flip side, you wish some of the stories were a bit more compelling and justified. This is what prevents the film from being an outstanding one. Arun suddenly grows up which is a bit baffling. The humour quotient could have been a notch higher. The second half is exhaustive and a bit stretched due to the copious twists and turns.
Sreekar Prasad's editing is superb. The transition of the various stories is astutely done. Vishal Bhardwaj's music is good with Darling and Bekaraan being the best songs. Even the background score given by Vishal is gripping and elevates the overall impact.
It's not easy to play a character spread across 35 years and Priyanka Chopra does that with immense conviction and confidence. She's a complete charmer and establishes her acting prowess. Vivaan Shah makes a very impressive debut. He's surely a talent to watch for. Neil Nitin Mukesh acts well but his good looks go against his otherwise stern character. John Abraham is underutilised. Irrfan Khan is outstanding as the poet. Watch out for the scene in which he slaps Priyanka. Anu Kapoor acts really well. Naseeruddin Shah is excellent. Aleksandr Dyachenko is passable and looks funny when he speaks Hindi. Ruskin Bond's cameo is okay.
A captivating story and excellent performances make 7 KHOON MAAF a bloody good film. Make sure you attend the weddings.