Bumping off husbands is one thing, getting them to church on time is another. Like Henry VIII before her, Susanna faces a conflict between the Church and her estate. She refuses to choose—and eliminates six husbands, before winning ecclesiastical approval for the seventh union. This matrimonial marathon spans several decades, and by the time the movie ends, Susanna (Priyanka Chopra) is old and grey and sleepy as hell.
In an earlier epic of endurance, What’s Your Raashee, Ms Chopra had played prospective brides from all 12 zodiac signs. But in that film, she only had to propitiate one man. Here she has to woo six, then win them, bed them, marry them, kill them and bury them. It is exhausting work, and by the time we stagger out of 7 Khoon Maaf, we have witnessed the sudden demise of six of the best—Edwin (Neil Nitin), Jimmy (John Abraham), Wasiullah (Irrfan Khan), Nikolai (Aleksandr Dyachenko), Keemat (Annu Kapoor) and Modhusudhon (Naseer).
Had the film made an explanatory statement on the killings, as Norman Bates does in Psycho, or had there been a reference to child abuse and a Freudian complex of sorts, or even an attempt to fix the gender bias in spouse murders, the plot might have worked.
Instead, Susanna’s mind is presented as a tabula rasa and the murders as ghoulish entertainment. Some of the more innovative techniques for swift hubby dispatch include a hungry panther, poisonous snakes and Russian Roulette. What substitutes for motive is a dark lighting style; as if to say that if you light a movie dimly enough, depth and hidden meaning will emerge. It never does, and 7 Khoon Maaf ends up as a hothouse of exotic spouses with names scratched off the catalogue at metronomic intervals.