Monica O My Darling is not your typical Bollywood commercial potboiler; it is a neo-noir crime comedy thriller that doubles as a murder mystery. Or at least that’s what you’d like to believe until you watch this 2-hours-and-10-minutes long film and realize that it’s so Bollywoodized that you can’t get over the predictable plot twists and events, which make this film directed by Vasan Bala a fun but average viewing experience. When it was revealed at the film’s teaser launch that Sriram Raghavan, the director of Andhadhun, was to direct the film, but Bala took over after five years, one anticipated a similar experience. Sadly, despite having an overall Raghavan flavor, Monica, O My Darling is nowhere near as magical as Andhadhun.
The plot centers on Jayant Arkhedkar (Rajkummar Rao), a robotics expert and ambitious young man who is dating Nikki (Akansha Ranjan Kapoor) in the hopes that one day they will marry, and he will rule the Unicorn group owned by Nikki’s father, Satyanarayan Adhikari (Vijay Kenkre). Even after a promotion that angers Nishikant Adhikari (Sikander Kher), Jayant’s path is not smooth, as he has an affair with the company’s secretary, Monica Machado (Huma Qureshi). Jayant is unaware that he is not the only target Monica has in her sights. She continues to blackmail Nishikant and Arvind, a member of the company’s account team (Bagavathi Perumal). The climax of the film is how these three conspirators plot Monica’s murder, only to become involved in one themselves. Then, ACP Naidu (Radhika Apte) arrives and takes her time with the investigation, making it clear that there is more to the story than meets the eye.
Monica O My Darling, an adaptation of Keigo Higashino’s Japanese novel Burutasu No Shinzou, has all the elements of a perfect suspense thriller but suffers from a major execution flaw. After a rigorous buildup in the first half, the second half of the film devolves into illogical murders occurring at a rate that is difficult to comprehend. Furthermore, too many backstories may help move the plot forward, but after a certain point, they all become confusing and it becomes difficult to determine what to focus on. And I don’t see the point in making a film so predictable that the number of predictable scenes and plot twists make you want to pat yourself on the back. I have no idea what the authors were thinking when they wrote those sections. I mean, do they doubt the intelligence of their audience, or are they making their story far too simple? They alone would know.
While Bala’s direction occasionally falters, Yogesh Chandekar’s story keeps you engaged for the most part. The narrative’s pace is perfect, but it encounters far too many roadblocks, resulting in a bumpy ride. The dialogues that Bala and Chandekar co-wrote are witty and laced with humor; they are perhaps the film’s greatest strength as a dark comedy. I particularly enjoyed the scene in which the men plot Monica’s murder. Yes, they also sign a murderer’s contract. Even murderers cannot trust one another.
The performances are impressive without being over the top. Rajkummar has returned to form spectacularly. Despite displaying some inconsistencies in the second half, he possesses every frame in which he appears. This is potentially one of Huma’s best performances, as she puts forth her best effort. She assumes the role of the letter because she is at ease in her skin. In the limited screen time she receives, Radhika effortlessly carries out her difficult role. I adored how she brings her quirks to the scenes and creates a likable police officer. Sikander and Akansha do well in their roles, though I was a little surprised that Sikander’s role was reduced to a cameo considering how well he performed.
To say that Monica O My Darling is a family-friendly film and that all moviegoers will enjoy it would be a bit presumptuous, as it will have a limited audience. And the fact that the creators took a risk by leaving the ending somewhat ambiguous will, at the very least, leave many confused. Well, not every suspense thriller and murder mystery can be an award-winning masterpiece like Andhadhun. With Monica O My Darling, slightly improved story direction and narration could have strengthened its argument.