Monica O My Darling (2022) Movie Review – A pulpy, retro-but-fresh murder mystery
A pulpy, hilarious, retro-but-fresh murder mystery
“If Anurag Kashyap and Shriram Raghvan had a child and it was Vasan Bala”. That’s what a close friend of mine said when seeing Bala’s Monica O My Darling and the truth is that he’s right. If you are not familiar with Indian films, Kashyap and Raghvan have distinct styles of narrative.
Filmmakers who work in the Hindi industry are often cautious about experimenting, however, filmmakers like Bala play a huge role in the way that their films come out. Bala first made waves on this scene in Mard ko Nahi Hota in the year of 2018. It was very similar to Monica O My Darling in the way that it combines the quirky and the edgy. Bala’s fusion of the rawness of Kashyap and Raghvan’s geometric style is a riot of beauty In Monica.
The idea is far from straightforward, but it is confined to a company named Unicorn Robotics. The employees of Unicorn Robotics are Jayant, Monica, Nishi, Arvind, and Gaurav are all ironically connected to one another but not in a good way. The majority of the action is viewed from Jayant’s (Rajkumar Rao) viewpoint. He is the eyes of the audience in the film’s universe and solves the intriguing mysteries of disappearances, murder, and extortion all on his own. Bala’s world is quite isolating and remarkably avoids self-indulgence in the process.
Even when the camera’s focus isn’t focussing on the other characters they’re always on and can surprise viewers with something new. His distinctive style of filmmaking is filled with pop-culture references. The short episodes in which his characters break the rules and create enticingly attractive sets for his character are fascinating play-along. When one is looking through contemporary cinema, that kind of narration is most similar to Quentin Tarantino. Much like his characters Bala’s characters are much more than just words on a sheet of paper. A surprise for those who are people who are fans of Bala’s latest film is the appearance of Radhika Madaan in the role of Supri during one scene, perhaps hinting at a connection in the future. Film lovers will see many more opportunities like this in Monica’s runtime which makes for a smart decision to make.
The visual fabric is full of nostalgic echoes of the golden age of Bollywood which was breaking free of the confines of social realism. The whole industry changed in a dramatic manner and was embraced by a new, modern, quirky style that attracted more insects to the cakes. Music, costume, and story structure are the primary tools Bala utilizes in this film to provide Monica with a nostalgic undertone. In the end, the film has a lot in common with popular ’70s and ’80s Hindi cinema. Huma Quereshi is probably the most surprising and is the king of the screen thanks to her central role as a femme fatale. She’s Monica in the end and acts as the primary catalyst in the story. Without her, the incidents don’t occur and the universes of Unicron’s corrupted males do not meet.
Monica’s most significant strength, however, its strength lies in the fact that it continues to unfold. It is evident that it is part of a multi-layered narrative in which everyone is involved. While style is important, the primary story is laced with crucial emotional choices and decisions that define the way forward. In the beginning, in the middle, and after they’ve taken a particular path it’s not simple for them to think about the decisions they made in the future. Bala ensures there is continuity in that every choice is used to shape the future. This consistency is admirable and a huge omission in many Hindi films of the moment. Monica’s constant world of crime frequently leaves the audience and viewers with a surprising conclusion.
Despite the many positives, Bala’s character is not convincing. It’s one of those rare occasions when Rajkumar Rao did not live up to expectations. This could be due to his lackluster work in the studio but on the screen, Rao feels out of the norm. The depth we’re familiar with in his work is missing in this film. Jayant as a character kind of thrown between one end and the next without any involvement. Jayant is a pawn in the larger game, which isn’t controlled or comprehended by Jayant. It is possible that the arch could have ended differently.
Another weak point in the story can be seen in the absence of grit during the 3rd act. It’s almost like a blatant ignorance of the flaws of the mystery revealed in the last act. Even in a masterful second act, Bala fails to connect the pieces that are missing to make the story equally compelling. The noir elements are an elaborate cover-up when it comes to the underlying premise of the tale.
All in all, Monica O My Darling is an extremely entertaining weekend film. It was released just at the right time, as people in the Hindi industry were in desperate need of something different. Vasan Bala has clearly an extensive road ahead in the near future. Hopefully, his unique style may be passed on to other films.
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