• Release Date: 11/11/22 
  • Platform: Netflix
  • Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Huma Qureshi, Radhika Apte
  • Director: Vasan Bala

Vasan Bala spins his magic again and this time revitalizes the mystery/thriller genre

Vasan Bala’s Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota was my favorite Hindi film of 2018. It was a superhero film of sorts and yet felt so grounded and next-door that it enveloped my senses and took me on a whirlwind adventure with its quirky characters and engrossing storytelling. Monica O My Darling is in many ways a classic murder mystery and a whodunit thriller but it is so different and, in its structure, story, and presentation from a run-of-the-mill thriller that it makes for a captivating watch that feels fresh and intriguing throughout. Bala’s direction has a distinctive style and feel that compliments the story fantastically here. This becomes an added advantage for the film and the director and helps in making the film a lot more enjoyable and impactful.

The Story: –

The story revolves around Jayant (Rajkummar Rao) who is working in a company that deals with robotics and artificial intelligence. He makes his way up the ladder at supersonic speed and not only grabs a chair on the board of directors of the company but also makes his way into the heart of the daughter of the company’s owner. Things look up for the middle-class lad and his sister when the personal secretary, to the owner, Monica (Huma Qureshi) informs him that he is about to be the father of their illegitimate child. The world comes crashing down on Jayant who was having a secret affair with Monica and so begins an elaborate blackmailing plot orchestrated by Monica, that quickly escalates into a murder plot that then catapults into a conspiracy plot involving numerous characters who all have their own motives and modus operandi. Vasan Bala combines all these elements to deliver a knockout experience that is as laced with thrills and surprises as it is brimming with situational dark humor.

Characters: –

One of the biggest strengths of Vasan Bala’s filmmaking has been his quirky characters and their astute development through his narratives. I love how his characters invariably undergo a complete arch through his narratives and always travel a great distance to reach a certain point in their stories. The same is true for Monica, O My Darling. When was the last time you saw a blackmailer and her victim hug each other and cry their hearts out ruing their respective predicaments and situations that they had landed in together? This is the genius of Bala. He is able to create extraordinary situations out of the mundane for the characters to do things and react in ways that feel real and organic but isn’t something that we see every day. What this does to the characters is that it makes them and their respective rendering feel real and believable but also introduces elements of surprise, intrigue, and shock value resulting in the circumstances turning entertaining, heartwarming, and even thrilling at certain junctures.

Performances: – 

The performances by the ensemble cast are fantastic. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the entire film is dependent on how the performances are able to hold onto the audience’s attention and envelope their senses with the dark humor and the subtle thrill elements. The protagonist, Jayant starts off as a poised and driven individual but with every subsequent scene turns more and more into a wreck of a man who is not only forced to do things that he can’t imagine doing in his worst nightmare but is also forced to see himself turning into this monster that he despises so much from time to time. The best example of how this is realized can be sighted using a scene where Jayant nearly strangles Monica in a moment of violent rage but then catches a glimpse of his own reflection in a mirror. Seeing the ghastly expressions on his own face, Jayant is violently shaken back to his senses and he soon collapses on the floor crying profusely. The film is peppered with numerous such sequences and this is something that not only makes each of the characters unique in their respective realization and feel but also special.

Dark humor: – 

Monica, O My Darling is easily one of the funniest films that I have seen this year. The fact that the majority of the comedy is extracted out of the terrifying situations that the men land up in and their respective responses to these situations not only make the comedic elements funnier but also add a layer of sarcasm to it. Rajkummar Rao gives out a resplendent smile when he learns that one of his coconspirators was also being blackmailed by Monica. The response of the man to this smile and what follows after this had me in splits. Radhika Apte’s character Naidu literally forces Rajkummar Rao’s Jayant to accept the fact she is beautiful. This entire interrogation scene between the two plays out so humorously that I had a smile on my face throughout. Other shorter exchanges between characters would also have audiences rolling on the floor laughing. 

 

Music: –

I absolutely loved the music of the film. The entire film feels like a musical ballad where important things happen over songs and the narrative moves ahead with nothing said in dialogues but a lot said about the characters and the situations through songs and scores. It is very easy to go overboard with a thing like this but Vasan Bala hits a perfect balance between the music and the storytelling and never lets it go overboard. The result is a smooth transition from one aspect of the narrative to another using music as an undercurrent and means to inspire a plethora of different emotions.   

Cinematography and editing: –

The cinematography of the film is gorgeous. Every frame is dripping wet with plush colors and dramatic tones that not only enhance the mood and feel of particular sequences but also add to them. The camera angles and how the camera looks at different characters also add to the inherent charm of the drama that is unfolding and help the audiences to peek into the psyche of the characters as well as look at particular setups from the best possible vantage point in the plane. The editing complements the storytelling perfectly. I especially enjoyed the technicalities involved in the many musical sequences as well as the beautiful transitions that are used to jump from one scene to another.   

Final Words: –

I had a great time with this film. This is one of the boons of the OTT space that has made films of this nature possible and profitable to make. Bala’s previous film didn’t even make a portion of its budget back because of the kind of audiences that it was catering to. He did the smart thing here and made a film for Netflix. This will take the film to an international audience where I am sure it will have many takers. It will also make its presence felt in the national circuit without the added tension of making its budget back. Yes! I would have loved to see this film on the big screen, but then if watching it on a smaller screen is the price that I have to pay for the industry to have a chance to keep making films of this nature, then it is a small price to pay.

Rating: 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)

Please note that the views expressed in this article are that of the reviewer and do not in any way or form reflect EastMojo’s position.

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