Monica, O My Darling
Onto the next release of the mega weekend and I just finished watching the new Hindi film Monica O My Darling. The one USP of the film was that the film is directed by Vasan Bala who had earlier directed Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota which was one of my favourite films from that year. It is rightly said that if Anurag Kashyap and Sriram Raghavan have a love child, the result is Vasan Bala. And I am of a firm believer that such filmmakers need to be empowered and given freedom especially in times of remakes. So when I did get to know that Vasan Bala was returning with a new film that was a direct OTT release, I was super excited. And with the same excitement, I ventured into the film Monica O My Darling. Is it worth your time, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Monica O My Darling is another film that should be ventured into without knowing what it has to offer. This is because the story is zany, weird, quirky and absolutely bonkers! It tactfully gives an ode to some of the films from the 60s like Jewel Thief. And it could only have come from a place that has a lot of love for cinema. The screenplay standing at about 130 minutes was about the right length of a drama tackling this quirky subject.
The film opens with a murder in the most unusual manner. And I say unusual because the setup seemed like the 60s but it featured a robotic arm. This was a deliberate attempt by the makers to give the viewers this conflicting setup which only sets the ball rolling for the rest of the drama. Soon you are introduced to all the main players with a song playing in the background which most definitely is an ode to the soundtrack from the 60s and 70s wherein a lot of events unfold in the backdrop of voiceovers or whistles(as seen in the song Monica Oh My Darling as an example).
The humour here is quirky and not everyone’s cup of tea. The tone of the drama was similar to the Sriram Raghavan film Johnny Gaddar which incidently was playing in the background in one of the scenes. This made me realise how self aware the writing here is in a drama that found me pleasantly laughing and hysterically so. So while the murders began to unfold with each suspect being bumped off only to narrow things down, I was thoroughly enjoying myself!
The film has so many meta references sprinkled in its narrative which is a wet dream for any cinephile like me. For instance, I did spot a signboard of flats featuring names lile Anurag Kashyap and Sriram Raghavan which did make me pause and make a note of it. The twists and turns are decent but do not mistake this for a whodunnit. This is dark comedy at its very best leading up to a final act that was deliciously indulging.
One minor drawback is that at times the drama does get overindulgent with its form. So certain sequences may work individually on thd back of some terrific art work or ambience but it did ticker slightly away from the story(only at times). But taking nothing away from the writing which is fresh and truly needs to be appreciated for its unique style and a tribute to cinema in general, especially the 60s and 70s. All in all, a terrific screenplay.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are quirky and sharp which often did leave me in splits. Now I am a certified fan of Achint Thakkar and his skill of generating sound especially after Scam 1992 and Rocket Boys. And the music here is a brilliant ode to the 60s in what is a banger of an album. The BGM too is peppy and keeps the viewers on their toes. The cinematography is intentionally designed to be grainy which will remind you of the 60s. The editing could have been slightly sharper here as there was a little bit of lag here and there. Director Vasan Bala is a part of a rare breed of filmmakers who need to be empowered and preserved. His narrative style here is unique and often quirky although a little overindulgent but I had a smashing time watching this film which means the direction deserves distinction marks.
This is perhaps the most unique ensemble of the year and they make for an entertaining watch. Bagavathi Perumal as Arvind is really good! It was a genius decision to cast Shiva Rindani who you may have seen in some of the most weird films from the 90s. He is hilarious here especially when he speaks in broken english. Akansha Ranjan Kapoor as Nikki is first rate as the pretentious ‘Bade Baap Ki Bigadi Aulaad’. Sikandar Kher as Nishu is excellent despite a limited screen time. Zayne Marie Khan as Shalu is the only restrained character here and she makes her presence felt.
Sukant Goel as Gaurav is an astonishingly good talent and it is heartening that he is getting such meaty roles to showcase his talent. He is spectacular here especially in the dying minutes of the film(pun intended). Radhika Apte as ACP Naidu is in her elements and how! Her one-liners are wacky and brilliantly executed in what was a fun outing by her. Huma Qureshi as Monica delivers another stunning performance that is a timely reminder about how good an actor she is. Absolutely a pleasure to watch as always! Rajkummar Rao as Jayant is such a natural onscreen, be it his goofy act or poker faced one-liners that had me cracked up often. Another excellent outing by him in an equally great film this time around!
Monica O My Darling is bonkers, absolute bonkers that makes for a spectacular viewing. Available on Netflix and Highly Recommended!