‘Merry Christmas’ : A Neo-noir Surprise in This Twisted Tale

By Dhaval Roy

Story: Back in town after being away for seven years, a man spends Christmas Eve with a mysterious and lonely woman. The evening takes an unexpected and dark turn that could land him in trouble.

Review: Thanks to consuming riveting suspense thrillers and crime dramas relentlessly, audiences can often easily predict twists or crack a mystery. But not with Sriram Raghavan’s movies, and his latest offering is no different. Here, the director not only keeps the suspense veiled, but one can also not foretell what’s going to happen next.

The movie begins with Albert (Vijay Sethupathi) returning home to an empty house as his mother passes while he is away for seven years. As his neighbour (Tinu Anand) describes her last few days, Albert decides to step out and take in the Christmas cheer to lift his spirits up. When he helps an attractive woman, Maria (Katrina Kaif), take her mute daughter home, she invites him in for a drink, and sparks fly between them. However, things go awry soon, and the narrative turns into a whodunnit. But the movie is more than that. Maria and the incident remain shrouded in mystery when in comes Ronnie (Sanjay Kapoor), adding to the chaos.

The movie is quintessentially Raghavanesque and neo-noir in its tonality. It springs surprises that you least expect, and therein lies his ingenuity. However, not much happens in the film’s first half, and the real action begins only shortly before the intermission. The track of the two strangers spending the evening together overstretches, and the audience’s interest intermittently tapers.

The narrative takes wings in the second half and keeps you engrossed right until the end. When you think all’s well that ends well, another track begins. The twist does not seem incongruous but adds another layer to the narrative.

Vijay Sethupathi, as the earnest Albert, is outstanding. He delivers funny lines with an effortless poker face. “Fermented kuchh bhi chalega, except dosa batter,” he says to Katrina Kaif’s Maria. A story within the story is as quirky, and Vijay narrates it with finesse. Katrina Kaif delivers a serviceable performance and is excellent in a scene where she lets herself go and celebrates Christmas Eve with Albert. Sanjay Kapoor, Tinu Anand, and Vinay Pathak (as a cop) play their parts well. — Times of India

Pritam’s soundtrack (especially Raat Akeli Thi and Nazar Teri Toofan) and Daniel B George’s background score enhance the film’s moody atmosphere, masterfully created by cinematographer Madhu Neelkandan. Bombay, when railway stations had weighing scales with whirring little discs, has been recreated splendidly. The film’s dialogues also stand out. When Albert points out to Maria that she and her husband look happy in the pictures, despite there being trouble in paradise, she says, “Tum kisiko jaante ho jo rota chehra deewar par lagaate hain?” (Who frames photos in which they look sad?).

Although relatively less ominous compared to films in the genre or the director’s previous works, catch this one for the wicked plot and the surprises. You’d have a merry time! — Times of India