7 Khoon Maaf (2011) (7 Murders Forgiven)
So we have two high-profile filmmakers releasing two remarkably symmetric films this weekend which wear their inspirations on their sleeves. Both these similarly structured films give us serial killers traumatized by childhood events. But, while Menon’s movie is like gazing into a fish bowl, Bhardwaj’s is akin to peeping through the door lens. It is not the protagonist, Susanna (who befittingly misses an emotional arc, played by Priyanka Chopra) but the world around her that is distorted in 7 Khoon Maaf. Right from the beginning, we are told, she is in search of father figures (through her six husbands) to replace her deceased biological father (which, of course, culminates with her marriage to the Son, her ordinance, which wittily distorts her line about drinking her husband’s blood). Along the way, she seems to see herself as a feminist twist on Christ (which goes well with Bhardwaj’s not-so-singular brand of militant feminism) who suffers for the sake of those who follow. She seeks forgiveness for her seven sins, her seventh sin being exactly this misinterpretation of Christ’s mission, to militarize Jesus, to bring him to earth, to replace forgiveness with retribution, to ‘kill’ him. However, where Bhardwaj’s film trumps Menon’s is that, although it lends itself to easy Lacanian reading like Naaygal, 7 Khoon never attempts to reduce characters to psychoanalytical toolboxes. Spanning several decades (Bhardwaj clumsily attempts to contextualize the narrative, using political events while, given the themes, he should have done precisely the opposite: collapse history and let anachronism reign), 7 Khoon hops across film subgenres of the west (costume drama, period film, concert picture etc.) all the while having a very ‘Indian’ heart (The commentary on Indian patriarchy almost swaps targets in the Russian segment), as if remarking upon Bollywood’s skin deep aping of Hollywood cinema. This masking of ‘Indian-ness’ by ‘European-ness’ and of (regressive) actualities by (progressive) surfaces and of the present seemingly repeating itself to eternity is, ultimately, is what 7 Khoon deals with. And it deals with pretty well, even if one gets the feeling that a rewrite would have done more good.
(Image Courtesy: Fun Cracker)