22 February, 2011

Undhiyu aur 7 Khoon Maaf, a review

Undhiyu
What’s the “special” today? I asked the waiter as we settled ourselves for dinner in the Thali restaurant of the mall in the neighborhood. By the special I would mean that one course which would be the piece de resistance in the entire Thali. “Surti Undhiyu” was the answer and I was thrilled. I love this Gujarati preparation that is made in the winter months. It’s a mix of all the seasonally available vegetables. It’s further embellished with “methi” dumplings and remains rather heavy on the oil and masala, but an absolute delight on the palate. I settled in for the meal with my better half across the table. She being more partial to sweets was enquiring about them.

This restaurant “Rajdhani” is rather famous for its Thali and unless one is really really hungry it is pointless venturing into this den. One is literally attacked with hospitality. The humungous variety of food that sits in one plate is enough to have nutritionists requiring not calculators but Cray computers to get the exact calorie count. The food is good and we come here once in six months to face this and decide after the experience never to subject our stomachs to this level of pressure. But human memory and time has a unique correlation. It selectively allows some such decisions to gradually diminish and fade away till a repeat experience is required to endorse it again. Within seconds the large steel plate, which in an earlier century could have been comfortably used as a shield by some warrior, was populated with sundry knick knacks, snacks, salads, vegetables, assorted dals, kadhi, sweets, and the Undhiyu. Fresh phulkas, kept coming in and I tore off a piece from my first phulka , generously wrapped it around a helping from the Undhiyu and put it in my mouth. As the buds in my tongue sent the signals of the taste, the analysis was clear, something was not quite correct.

I looked down into the plate, it looked like Undhiyu alright. Then with my finger, I started sifting through the ingredients and saw most of them here. I called the waiter over. Has the chef / bawarchi changed ? The waiter was aghast and asked me what happened and I told him that the undhiyu does not taste the same, what is the issue? He rushed inside and out came the bawarchi wringing his hands. Apologetically he bent down and told me, Sir, you are quite right. It is the Undhiyu. The reason why it does not taste the exact same is because instead of sweet potatoes , it has only potatoes and in place of green garlic he had to use the other variety. His honest admission had me smile and assured him it doesn’t taste bad only a mite different. It was not a complaint. He continued in his lament, what to do sir, sometimes one fails to get all the ingredients of ones choice and no one realizes that out of 92 ingredients required for the Undhiyu even if we use substitutes for any one or two of them the taste would change and be noticed by a connoisseur.


He had put the finger on the spot. This was the exact issue with the movie that we had seen just before we entered the restaurant for the meal.

7 Khoon Maaf
Vishal Bharadwaj is one film maker who has, amongst the latest talented crop of directors, consistently delighted me. His onscreen adaptations of Shakespearean works like Macbeth ( Maqbool, in my opinion his finest movie till date ) or Othello ( Omkara ) or his award winning Makdee ( one of the best full length films for children in recent times ) he has impressed with his attention to the script. His association with good authors for stories led him to Ruskin Bond whose story “Blue Umbrella” was adapted by him with his favorite actor Pankaj Kapoor in the lead. This was the second story of Bonds that Bharadwaj was associating himself with and there was a lot of buzz around the movie.

Priyanka Chopra who had been a scene stealer in his earlier Kaminey was in a full length role with him, so there was obviously an expectation of a working chemistry. This story of Bond’s titled “Susannah’s Seven Husbands” is an incredible piece of literature spanning a mere four pages and was keen to see how it would be adapted as a full length feature film. Ruskin Bond himself had been engaged to work with Bhardwaj and Matthew Robbins in a supportive role for the script. Then the list of actors who graced the parts of her husbands is the who’s who of acting talent in this country and abroad. Naseeruddin Shah, Irfan Khan, Annu Kapoor, Neil Nitin Mukesh, John Abraham, Alexander Dyachenko and Shah’s younger son Vivaan making his debut.

The movie is good without a doubt but like the Undhiyu we were eating, had hit a different spot and it was extremely difficult to put a finger on what exactly was it while  watching the movie.The cinematography of the film is excellent, Ranjan Palit creates an eerie atmosphere with his camera and the play of shadows around the characters is chilling. Unfortunately it is the actors, some of them, who fail to deliver on the beautiful canvas created by Bhardwaj & Palit. Priayanca looks the part and plays it adequately but there are times when one wonders what would have happened if she had just let go of her restraint, cinematically it would have connected the dots for me the viewer. She doesn’t rise above her part and this was the sweet potato missing from the Undhyu called “7 Khoon Maaf”.

The green garlic elements were in the scripting and here I lay the blame squarely at the Chef’s door. His earlier work Kaminey or even Ishqiya too had a lot left to viewer interpretation but that approach doesn’t quite work here. The last is the choice of a title and this in my opinion is where he truly lost out on the plot. The title succeeds in doing only one thing for the viewer in that numerically he now is in the know of how many more rounds/episodes are remaining. The lead actor is unable to convey motive, compulsion, mania or simply put even the need to go on and on, and this is  the place where the dots from one episode to another do not get suitably connected.

The music is brilliant and some of the side acts are good too like the dwarf jockey. Neil Nitin Mukesh delivers a chilling Major and Anu Kapoor as the cop with a nuisance value excel in their parts. Naseerudin Shah as the opportunistic doctor is good and his son makes a reasonable debut and shows promise.

One of those days when a Chef from Rajdhani doesn't get his Undhiyu exactly right is what happened with Vishal Bhardwaj & “7 Khoon Maaf”. All the ingredients being individually quite correct and perfect but as a composite dish, something went slightly awry. 


Whats the final verdict though, is the movie watchable ??? Definitely Yes, a truly great chef or a director even on his off day will create a dish or a movie that will still be a cut above the best, of his ordinary contemporaries...So do go & watch this different piece of cinema

14 comments:

Bhagyashree said...

Undhiyoooo........slurp..I absolutely love that dish altho this year missed out on having it. 7 khoon maaf haven't seen yet but loved the way you have connected the dish with the movie. :D

Kau Kau goes the Crow said...

Thank you Bhagya,do watch the film though.
It is a good movie that could have become great in his own hands. No other director would even have the courage or the ability to manage a script like this.Simply love his work like I enjoy eating a good Undhiyu :-)

dotcomgirl said...

Have not watched the movie yet but will do so this week.... surely! Have loved almost all of Bharadwaj's work so I'm definitely watching this one esp. after your review :)

Love Rajdhani and Undhiyu... I like all Gujarati preparations bcos they always add sugar or gud in them to satisfy my sweet tooth!

Kau Kau goes the Crow said...

:-)Thank you DCG...enjoy it too

Soul Images said...

Kau.... you are amazing, dude! I love the way you draw the parallels here between your two passions --- food and cinema.
Personally I feel that both the director and the lead actor i.e. Priyanka have shied away from calling a spade a spade. I have not read Ruskin Bond's story and don't know whether Vishal was trying to stick to the story. But fact is that he has tried to keep the sensibilities of the people intact.

He shies away from showing her nymphomaniac nature, which is in fact the reason that she needs to go from a man to a man so quickly. She may be of extremely possessive nature and hence cannot accept anything else but complete commitment. She is possibly self-obsessed which does not allow her to see beyond herself... Now all these and more are the dark shades. Had Priyanka brought them out, she would have created better drama.... then the dramatic title 7 Khoon maaf would have looked plausible.... But our actors are so shy of going all out. Their image is precious...

The weak link is, in not building the support team who murder for her sake. Those characters have been left weak and limp. They would have added to creating her aura...

Sadly Vishal focuses on bringing in audience sympathy for Priyanka!

Kau Kau goes the Crow said...

Ruskin Bond in his short story may have left the darker side of the character to the imagination of the reader. The book or a short story ( its just told in 4 pages ) as a format allows it...in a full length feature film where the space is much more the director was needed to tell all...like it is.

Dark or not so dark the character at some level does evoke sympathy, Its not the black widow in her but the vulnerable female who attracts such losers that evokes it...there are many shades and nuances that may have been differently brought out in the hands of an actress of a different caliber.

The one who comes to mind is Tabu who did that in Vishal's own Maqbool...Maybe even Rani stood a better chance...but that's only a wishful thought.

Till then let me focus on the purrfect Undhiyu and have it either from Dadar Kabootar Khana, Tip Top in Ghatkopar or Mulund Farsan Mart wonlee

Beyond said...

Kya bat hai Kuastubh. Badhiya ! i wondered till the end of the first part how this is going to turn up since i had already scrolled down earlier to see the movie picture. I thought may be they are two different parts. but the last line made the difference and i cud see how you were leading. I havent seen the movie.. but i feel its this - the use of the link - the binding element of two unrelated topics and making a seamless story out of them. may be that is what is lacking. as you said ...the link - the reason why the 7 stories or murders happened. that sweet potato link?

Ramblings said...

Good Comparisions buddy, good to see this piece..

Kau Kau goes the Crow said...

Thanks Nilesh...:-) glad u enjoyed it

Kau Kau goes the Crow said...

Thank you (Ramblings). Had a lot of fun writing it too :-)

Nilesh Bakhle said...

Here's my take on my blog - http://nileshbakhle.blogspot.com/2011/03/movie-review-7-khoon-maaf-7km-2011.html.

I agree substantially with you, however my disappointment seems more than yours :) maybe my expectations were higher ;-)

Kau Kau goes the Crow said...

Read your review and i agree...you must read the short story. It is a brilliant vignette of writing.
Minimalist yet crystal and has remarkable depth.

veena said...

A coincidence ? Am also fond of undhiyoo and had stuck the recipe on the refrigerator to motivate me to make it. Venture I did, managing to get most of the items (as given in the recipe)except the sweet potato (used baby potatoes instead like ur fretting chef) and had to replace surti papdi with the vaal, as the su.papdis that i checked were not upto the mark. Looks like both the cinema and the veggies created ample food for thoughts....

Kau Kau goes the Crow said...

U brave girl...attempting an Undhiyu at home is raw courage...especially when one is not an original Surti... not every surti can make it right either...then hoping it comes out right is another step in the realms of rank optimism...again kudos to the spirit that made u embark on such a journey...:-)))) Love it myself and at Mulund have an option...go out to Mulund Farsan Mart and place an order..