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.


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