A woman, and her seven husbands - all dead. The premise sounds macabre and exaggerated. But I'll never forget discussing wanting to see this film with an Indian guy I met during my recent globetrotting, and his (paraphrased from my memory) comment on the title.
"Khoon is like, sin. But then you add maaf, and it's all forgiven."
His point was, as I understood it, that there's a poetic tone to the title, and that same poetic tone underscores the movie. This film isn't rough and rustic like Omkara, or slick with dirty urban rain like Kaminey. It's part realism, part fantasy-like. Sadly, not all stanzas are equally strong.
I didn't have very high hopes. I'm not sure what I'd read but something told me this wasn't as universally praised or as liked as Kaminey. There are probably good reasons for it. There is plenty good, though - starting with the fact that Priyanka does well in her performance, and to compliment her acting, the way they've aged Susanna over the years feels realistic. Susanna gains a certain weariness as she ages, but never loses her spark. At times it seems like she's lost it completely, but somehow she's still in control, or about as in control as she can be, of her own life. I end up sympathising for a killer - not enough to think what she did was justified each time, but enough to hope she gets out of it, somehow.
The husbands are well cast. It's difficult to name stand-outs, to be honest. They all rather fit their roles and brought the essential core of each role, whether the husband was to be terrifying from the outset, lying but lacking malice or surprisingly menacing.
As ever, with Vishal Bhardwaj films, the music completely makes the movie. Almost every song is a treat, from the hard rock songs (O Mama & Dil Dil Hai) to the Kalinka-inspired Darling, where Rekha Bhardwaj delivers a song so catchy you almost wish you'd never heard it. A lot of the film feels, looks and sounds exactly right - these are the hallmarks of a Bhardwaj film. You are sucked into the world and unwilling to leave.
But like I said, there are weak stanzas. While John Abraham does fine in the role of the second husband, there is something that feels weirdly out of place about his segment of the story. Maybe it's the way the songs are picturized, his character's style that just kind of goes a little over-the-top, but something about it felt a bit off. The picturization for Yeshu could have been a little more subtle, and the comedic elements in the story of the Russian husband, while certainly appropriately dark, could have been toned down a little.
And let's face it, it's not easy to watch the suffering of a woman for over two hours. Not that a Bhardwaj film is ever all fun times, but there was something about the unrelenting circle of her life, even at the moments when the whole audience laughs darkly at the interval screen ("Four more to go.."), that makes me unsure I want to return to this film, solid though it may have been. Bhardwaj-saab, mujhse maaf kardo.
And some less organised thoughts..
- Another example of National Awards really jumping the gun. She gets one for Fashion (bloody Fashion), and then goes and makes this one? What nonsense. (See also: Saif for Hum Tum. Dude goes on to make Omkara.)
- Neil Nitin Mukesh, despite being all menacing and the character being a bag of dicks, looks really good with a moustache ....so yeah.
- Seriously, I was in musical heaven throughout this movie. Can Vishal Bhardwaj come score my life so I can just have that on my iPod and not ever listen to anything again?
- Konkona Sen Sharma was barely there but left an impact. Anybody surprised?
- I haven't read the Ruskin Bond novel but I'm assuming it's a pretty good adaptation. Once Vishal Bhardwaj has scored my life, can he just adapt every book ever written? I'm thinking Jane Austen. It is a truth universally accepted, that every behenchod in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. Gangsters, nautsch girls, the whole works.
No? Fine, I'll just keep day-dreaming, then..