WTF ASIA 30: 7 Khoon Maaf (2011)
Thanksgiving is next Thursday here in the United States, and in preparation, I have decided to discuss a dark comedy where numerous Indians come into contact with an English Christian and end up dead. Okay, so that is kind of a misleading description of the movie, but you wouldnâ€™t know that. This is 7 Khoon Maaf.
The movie starts out with a woman in a roomâ€¦with a gunâ€¦she points the gun to her head, screams, and BAM!!! She paints the wall with blood. Yep, no context to this scene at all. I have seen several Indian movies that start out either with a death, an imminent death, someone dying, someone having died, or someone seeming to have died. This was probably the bloodiest one of the bunch so far. So, now for some context.
Forensic pathologist Arun is called in to confirm that a body belongs to one Susanna Anna-Marie Johannes. Susanna had taken care of Arun when he was a child and had paid for his education since then. He owed his current lifestyle to her and he had harbored a crush on her. Yet, as she may have saved his life, her own life was a mess. Now it is up to Arun to tell the story of Susanna and the men who died for love.
Susanna was brought up in a wealthy home, but her father died when she was young. She held her father up as the best man who ever was and struggled to find a husband who could compare. When she grew up, she married an army major. Sometime around here, she catches a young Arun trying to steal something. Susanna brings Arun to his uncle, who works as her stableboy. She prevents Arunâ€™s uncle from beating him, promising instead to pay for Arunâ€™s education so that he can make something of himself.
Back to Susannaâ€™s husband. Edwin Rodriques (I guess that he is part Portuguese as she is part English) has a prosthetic leg and is a bit sensitive about it. He is also very possessive of Susanna and gets quite jealous. He is also a real jerk. He gets into a fight with Arunâ€™s uncle that leads to a duel with whips. Yep, a whip duel. This results in Arunâ€™s uncle getting blinded in one eye. The following night, Edwin and Susanna go hunting and Edwin gets attacked by a bad-CGI panther. Bye bye, Edwin. You were a jerk.
Susanna is in deep mourning for sure, and we can see that in the way that she is eye-flirting with one of the singers at her husbandâ€™s funeral. His name is Jamshed Singh Rothod, but his rockstar name is Jimmy Stetson. Jamshed romances her with this very lovely acoustic guitar number, which Jimmy turns into a kind of 80s power balled hair metal song that I consider to be the worst song in this movie. Actually, the song is not even his; he ripped it off from someone from his college years. Well, Jimmy is rich enough to not only buy the guy off but to also get the guy to write more songs for him. He is also rich enough to buy copious amounts of drugs. Susanna tries to pull him back from the brink, but it doesnâ€™t work. One day, Jimmy is found dead from an overdose. How inevitably sad.
Through with the life of excess and debauchery, Susanna turns to Islam. She falls in love with a poet named Wasiullah â€œMusafirâ€ Khan. He is a soft and gentle soulâ€¦except for when it comes to sex; then he gets very abusive. Susannaâ€™s servants grow to dislike him intensely and it is not long until he dies under mysterious circumstances. Ummmâ€¦
Okay, so we have reached the halfway point of the movie, so I should not really go any further into the plot except to say that there will be more husbands who end up dead. At this point in the movie, it is not entirely clear whether this is all bad luck or whether Susanna and her servants are murdering any romantic interest who gets on her bad side. It does seem like Susanna grows more disillusioned about love as she grows older and she has become quite cynical by the halfway point of the film. Her failed quest for true love has turned bitter and broken, yet still determined. She seems to treat love like a drug. Her first hit was free and the best, and nothing else can compare. Her search leads to disappointment, degradation, and danger. Yet she keeps searching for something that can compare to that first hit, and starts to decline. She may grow in knowledge and maturity, shedding her early naÃ¯ve thoughts, but that wisdom of age does not help her stop her pursuit.
It is also around this time that Arun, now an adult, sees Susanna as not just an object of affection from afar, but as a person with flaws. Serious flaws. Though he is still indebted to her and still has feelings for her, those feelings are mixed in with a measure of disgust, pity, and a bit of fear. He is getting old enough to get away from her and he soon does, coming only to confirm her suicide. Perhaps he should have found a way to help her out before she fell off the deep end, given all that she had done for him. Maybe there was nothing that he could do. But he ran off anyways. He owed his success to her, but he couldnâ€™t even stick around to fail her.
I already mentioned that this was a comedy, right? Well, it is. Sure, it may not have that broad slapstick and goofy faces and over-the-top yelling that would make it easy to brand as comedy, but there is humor throughout. Even the ending, which could be taken as sickeningly sweet, could also be taken as brutally sarcastic. And then there was that little joke of a scene during the end credits that I kind of thought could have been placed somewhere else, but whatever. Perhaps it was the style of humor (and that ending) that prevented this movie from being a hit in India, but I really liked it.
The film is based on the short story Susannaâ€™s Seven Husbands. The filmâ€™s title, Seven Murders Forgiven, suggests that 7 is an important element to the story. Maybe it is because many Western cultures consider 7 to be a lucky number. Maybe it is because of the 7 Deadly Sins or the seven days before the creation of Man. Errrâ€¦I thought that I might have gone deeper than that, but I guess not.
Well, this post was shorter than I had expected it to be. I donâ€™t really have much else to say that will not go into spoiler territory. Okay, I will say that the song â€œDarlingâ€ annoyed me during the first half, but it became serious earworm by the time it was over.
Next Time: Silent Waters (Pakistan: 2003, approx. 95 minutes).
Time After Next: Seven Samurai (Japan: 1954, approx. 205 minutes).