Vishal Bhardwaj is all keyed up for the world premiere of 7 Khoon Maaf (Seven Sins Forgiven) at the Berlin International Film Festival. The film opens in the Panorama section today at the Friedrichstadtpalast, a grand cinema that seats almost 2,000.
“I am very happy to return to the Berlin film festival seven years after Maqbool was shown here,” says Bhardwaj. “When I ate alone at an Indian restaurant here last time, the restaurant owner asked me if I was a kabootar [pigeon, slang for illegal immigrant] and offered to help me find work. This time I am missing Priyanka [Chopra] here, but she’s been busy promoting the film in India and one of us had to be back home.”
Bhardwaj is here with a cast and crew of nine, including Annu Kapoor, Vivaan Asad Shah, and co-screenwriter Matthew Robbins.
Vivaan is Naseeruddin Shah’s son, in his debut feature. Both father and son play lovers of Susanna, played by Chopra. The film is shot by Ranjan Palit.
Bhardwaj is comfortable breaking the rules of Bollywood for his art: he has a strong female protagonist carry the film on her shoulders.
Says the filmmaker, “Initially, producers asked me to have a husband kill seven wives. But women are much stronger than men, and men look for this strength in women. There’s black humour with these seven specimen husbands, and it was very interesting for me to get them killed.”
More daringly, the film’s climax has an extraordinary scene in which Chopra, as a Christian nun, dances with Jesus Christ — but both of them do the whirling dance of Sufism. It is an indelible, richly resonant image of Indian cinema that unites the great religions of the world, Christianity and Islam, and their most precious elements — spirituality, surrender and ecstasy — without saying a word.