Vishal Ko 7 Khoon Maaf

Pic Source: Wikipedia

A couple of weeks ago, I had written a post on The Genius of Vishal Bhardwaj and had great expectations from his next film, ‘7 Khoon Maaf’ based on Ruskin Bond’s short story, ‘Susanna’s Seven Husbands’ (adapted for screen by Vishal and Matthew Robins). It’s been little over a week since the film’s release and a lot has been said about it, good, bad and ugly. Though I did not love the film, I still think Vishal is amongst the best filmmakers we have in India today and his weakest is eons better than many others’ best. So what worked and what did not work for 7 Khoon Maaf… here’s my list of 7 things (plot spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen the film)

Screenplay – A killer plot but a very straightforward narrative did not help the film. The whole world knew that Susanna (Priyanka Chopra) is going to murder her seven husbands in the film but one expected some surprises and some twists throughout… the murders were lined up like a multi-course meal and we got entrée after the hors d’ourves as promised; in fact there comes a message at the interval point – ‘4 more to go!’ The film is full of brilliant moments and images like a Persian cat walking down a grave made of snow; John in a blue negligee playing chor-police; Susanna asking her poet husband, “who is Mukarrar” when he praises her couplet by using the Urdu word that means ‘again’; and Neil Nitin Mukesh dangling his amputated leg in his wife’s face, amongst many others. However, they somehow do not come together to leave a hangover like Vishal’s earlier films did.

Priyanka Chopra – She dazzled in Vishal’s Kaminey but could not really pull off a complex character like Susanna. Not her fault, she tried and tried hard but that effort showed and she never became Susanna like she became Sweety in Kaminey or Kareena became Dolly in Omkara or Tabu transformed into Nimmi in Maqbool. She shines in a few scenes but not throughout the film. The writing also did not support her as you neither feel bad for Susanna, nor you hate her. She moves from one marriage to the other but there is just so much happening that you’re left to wonder if she’s started to enjoy it or is a pained soul.

Climax – What saves the day is the superb twist in the end… the film lifts in the last ten minutes and Priyanka also delivers her best especially in the scene where she says, “this time I will drink his blood…” She appears sinister and then the surprise.

Music – A brilliant soundtrack helps the film move forward. Vishal Bhardwaj and Gulzar once again create magic especially with the song, ‘Daarrling’ (vocals – Usha Uthup and Rekha Bhardwaj) and ‘Bekaraan’ (vocals – Vishal Bhardwaj). The two rock numbers one after the other distract and only one would’ve been sufficient.

Cinematography – The scenes are set to create a mood and the lighting is dim… Vishal conceptualizes the scenes brilliantly and Ranjan Palit shoots them like never before. 7 Khoon Maaf looks like a brilliant piece of art but falls short of being a brilliant piece of cinema.

Make-up – The moment Susanna first appears on screen, you do not notice her but you notice her bad prosthetic make up that makes her look fake. A powerful scene is ruined with everyone discussing her cakey make-up around you. Of course, her journey from a young beautiful army wife to a middle aged frustrated woman requires her to look different but technical flaws like this take away from the emotion.

The husbands, the supporting cast – Some worked and some didn’t but the film has a very interesting ensemble cast. Annu Kapoor as an opportunistic policeman, Keemat Lal is brilliant and so is Irrfan Khan as Wasiullah Khan, a gentle poet by the day and a masochistic lover by the night. Neil Nitin Mukesh as Major Edwin Rodrigues, an insecure and jealous husband is good while the Russian actor, Aleksandr Dyachenko as Nicolai Vronsky is just about ok. Naseeruddin Shah as Dr. Modhusudhon Tarafdar is miscast as you just do not relate to him talking with a Bengali accent; and John Abraham as a drug addict rock star has nothing much to add. Vivaan Shah makes a confident debut and is able to manage the growth in his character over the years (though make up fails him also).

The burden of expectations is such that minor mistakes get magnified and a little disappointment is devastating. 7 Khoon Maaf also suffers from not matching up to the humungous expectations of Vishal’s devoted fans. But Vishal, 7 Khoon Maaf to you as well and we accept your take on Susanna and eagerly await your next with the same expectations (fans never learn, you see)

My rating: *** Three stars on five

Tanu Weds Manu

 

Bhai mazaa nahin aaya ji…

Pic: Viacom 18; source: Wikipedia

Hello ji, I am Manu Sharma (R. Madhavan) … I am a London returned doctor, looking for a bride in India. I land in Delhi and my parents directly take me to Kanpur to meet a girl and her family. The girl is sloshed and passes out when we meet but I am so desperate that I fall in love with her instantly. The girl’s name is Tanu ji… she is pretty, has collagen injected pout, drinks vodka or rum neat, smokes up and abuses in our mother tongue. I like her a lot as she reminds me of what I do not possess – a spine.

Hello ji, I am Tanu Trivedi (Kangana Ranaut)… I am a Delhi University graduate and think that I am the god’s gift to mankind. Please don’t mind the way I talk as I still do not have a diction coach. I love a contractor boy from Lucknow but flirting-shlirting with bakras like Sharma ji aka Manu ji is good for my ego. He seems like a little lost puppy, wagging his tail and following me in the hope of some affection; no harm in playing along, you see.

Director, Anand L. Rai’sTanu weds Manu’ doesn’t have a path breaking story-line but a safe plot which usually works for a rom-com. But what’s required is an exciting screenplay (story by Himanshu Sharma) and crackling chemistry between the lead pair; think ‘500 Days of Summer’ or closer home, ‘Jab We Met’… but ‘Tanu weds Manu’ falters on both. Of course, there are mandatory wedding in Punjab scenes and some genuinely funny moments but not enough to sustain the film. The first half is silly but interesting; the interval moment holds a big surprise but after that it’s a downward journey as Madhavan’s character starts becoming a door mat and Kangana gets more irritating.

In such films, a lot depends on the lead actors’ charm. Kangana looked promising in the promos but her diction fails her again as she sounds completely unconvincing. In fact, you end up laughing at the way she says her lines than what she says. Madhavan is nice in the first half but his character becomes so weak in the second half that you stop feeling sad for him. The supporting cast is more interesting with Deepak Dobriyal as Manu’s best friend Pappi; this guy steals the show whenever he comes on screen. Eijaz Khan plays Jassi, Manu’s Sardarji friend very well and Swara Bhaskar as Payal, Tanu’s childhood friend has more charm and talent than the leading lady. Jimmy Shergill is good in his few scenes but his character isn’t well written; Ravi Kissen is wasted in his two bit role.

Madhavan’s stylist should take note and give him clothes that do not highlight his… eh… man breasts! Kangana looks nice in some parts and scary in some with her bee-stung pout; her wedding look in the climax is ghastly. The film’s soundtrack (music, Krsna; lyrics, Rajshekhar) has some nice Punjabi songs like ‘Sadi Gali’ (RDB) and ‘Jugni’ (Mika); and some really bad ones like ‘Mannu Bhaiyya’. Cinematography by Chirantan Das is good and a little bit of brutal editing (Hemal Kothari) in the second half would have helped the film a lot.

Overall ‘Tanu weds Manu’ is just about average and can be watched once. Tip: go in a large group and you’d enjoy it more… preferably after downing Kwaarter Baawttle Vodka* like Tanu ji.

My rating: ** ½ Two and a half stars on five

*Kwaarter Baawttle Vodka – borrowed from Anna Vetticad’s Tweets and Blog.

 

Aao Award Award Khelein

Cinematic Excellence vs. Popularity – The Big Debate

Dabangg - 2010's biggest entertainer

Filmfare Awards, Star Screen Awards, Zee Cine Awards, IIFA, Stardust Awards, Apsara Awards, National Awards and many more awards are there to celebrate excellence in Hindi cinema today. However, the big question here is whether these awards actually salute excellence or reflect the popularity of the year’s blockbusters in competition. The credibility of these awards is a different matter altogether; actors and filmmakers have often accused organizers of playing favourites, selling trophies and pleasing the powerful. These days, new categories are introduced to please some stars and sponsors, all in the name of encouraging talent and public voting! Leaving aside the credibility issue, the biggest question any awards ceremony needs to address is what they stand for; are they going to felicitate the biggest hit or a technically superior film that may not have set the box office on fire.

Udaan - 2010's finest Hindi film

One school of thought is purely merit based, where big and small films compete on the same platform and the same judgment parameters apply to all. Public voting system may not work well here as whenever you try to go mass, the stars’ emotional connect and popular appeal may take over. The only possible solution is having a qualified jury based judging process like our National Awards and the Star Screen Awards; though there are always questions on the jury’s decisions. Internationally also the most prestigious awards are jury based, like the Oscars, which have a much more complicated judging process and a much larger jury. These merit based awards help smaller, well-made films gain recognition and some more business. In fact, success at Oscars have helped some small films reach blockbuster status; case in point, Slumdog Millionaire. The flipside to this process is that many popular films are overlooked and the fans are left disappointed. At last year’s Oscars, James Cameron’s magnum opus, Avatar was beaten by a much smaller film, The Hurt Locker for the Best Picture trophy. The masses who had loved Avatar had not even heard of The Hurt Locker and many had complained of it being boring. This year the same thing happened at the Star Screen Awards where the year’s biggest hit, Dabangg did not find a nomination in the Best Film shortlist and a lesser seen but much superior film, Udaan won the big prize.

Click here to read full post that appeared on http://www.nowrunning.com

Declaration: The author of this article has grown up watching film awards and has almost always enjoyed them. He wakes up at odd hours to catch the Oscars and stays up late to watch the star-studded Bolly film awards that come with never ending commercial breaks. In the last few years, he has been disappointed with the state of Hindi film awards but has not lost faith. He is also part of the TwiFi Awards’ Film Buff Jury.

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