Streaming on Netflix 11th November 2022
Vasan Bala is one of those directors who are known for a distinctive style of storytelling. For example in Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota you had a protagonist who has a rare condition named Congenital insensitivity to pain. It was a whimsical ride that combined new age tropes with some old Bollywood elements. In the anthology segment Spotlight (the Satyajit Ray anthology) he made a social satire that combined religion and movies. His latest Monica O My Darling is a wonderful addition to the director’s repertoire. The film is based on the 1989 Japanese novel Burutasu No Shinzou.
Monica O My Darling follows the life of Jayant Arkhedkar (Rajkumar Rao). Jayant is a robotics genius who gets an opportunity to climb the social ladder after doing lot of hard work. A series of murders follow in the ‘Unicorn Group’, the workplace of Jayant. Huma Qureshi plays the titular character Monica. Monica is the secretary who serves the robotics company with great deal of zeal. Monica and Jayant are in secret relationship. But Jayant has no intention of marrying her as he is dating his boss’s daughter (Akansha Ranjan). ACP Naidu (Radhika Apte) is a quirky cop who is assigned to solve the case. There are a host of others too with special mention to Sikander Kher playing the entitled son of the boss. He is not very happy with the special attention that Jayant is getting. The film mainly talks about how being at the top of the social ladder isn’t always a great place to be.
The storytelling in Monica O My Darling will remind you of Sriram Raghavan’s thrillers at a few places in terms of how it explores the dark nature of human beings. Much like Sriram Raghavan films here too none of the characters are pure white, each of them come with their own shades of grey. However Vasan Bala gives his own touches to this tale of an ambitious outsider.
Every time Jayant considers himself as a winner or hero life cuts him to size as no wins are absolute.
Both Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota and the short segment Spotlight had plenty of pop culture references which added to the story. And Monica O Darlings is no exception to that. The film’s title itself is taken from the iconic song sung by RD Burman. The title song keeps playing in the background at important junctures which adds to the immersive experience.
Monica O My Darling is filled with multiple characters and each of them are important, even the side characters. Vasan Bala does complete justice to each of them.
The dialogues co-written by Bala and Yogesh Chandekar have a lot of wit particularly those spoken by Radhika Apte. More importantly the film is an allegory to class struggle.
In this galaxy of actors Huma Qureshi stands out in the title role. She has to switch her mood from being frustrated, sad and maniac in a matter of minutes. And the actress does it splendidly. Huma does a commendable job of keeping Monica humane in spite of her grey areas.
Rajkumar Rao proves once again why he is one of the best actors that we have. The character of Jayant requires him to showcase a range of emotions and the actor nails it. Radhika Apte has a late entry but the actress is fun to watch with her cool demeanor. Sikandar Kher has a limited part but the actor is nevertheless good.
The film’s music and cinematography are also perfectly in sync with the film.
Final word: Monica O My Darling is a delicious watch particularly if you like Sriram Raghavan’s brand of cinema. The talented ensemble is the cherry on the cake.