Saturday 4 November 2023

Monica, O My Darling [2022]

 Monica, O My Darling is a heady, devilish and deliriously entertaining joyride, and riotously lurid and pulpy at that. This crackling celebration of lowbrow crime genre was liberally peppered with references – Vasan Bala, who’s as much a cinephile as he’s a filmmaker, doffed his hats to pulpy hardboiled literature, neo-noir capers, cheesy B-movies, crime comics and old-school Bollywood – thus exuberantly underscoring its self-reflexive nature, even though that never came in the way of the enjoyment. Interestingly, amidst the stylistic flourishes, hyperbolic expressions of sensuality and violence, a labyrinthine plot packed with red herrings and outrageous twists, and darkly ironic interjections, Bala also craftily sprayed some pungent social observations into the mix – from ethics of AI and self-serving corporate governance to sharp class commentaries, nepotism and male gaze. Deliciously adapted from Keigo Higashino’s Burūtasu no Shinzō, the narrative hinges around a slew of gleefully saucy characters – the titular Monica (Huma Qureshi), an incredibly voluptuous and promiscuous femme fatale who has no qualms about her desires, wants and needs; Jayant (Rajkumar Rao), who’s made it big as much for his engineering chops as his relationship with his boss’ daughter, but which now hangs in balance thanks to Monica; the boss’ brash son Nishikant (Sikandar Kher) who hatches a preposterous plan to murder Monica, as she’s accused him – among others – of impregnating her; and ACP Naidu (Radhika Apte), a chatty and wisecracking cop. This rollicking tale of lust, greed, blackmail, double (and triple) crosses, and multiple grisly murders, was superbly complemented by a terrific retro soundtrack inspired by 1970s Hindi music – the film’s title is itself a gushing nod to an iconic R.D. Burman composition – created by Achint Thakkar and Varun Grover.

Director: Vasan Bala

Genre: Crime Thriller/Black Comedy/Neo-Noir/Mystery

Language: Hindi

Country: India

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