CAST: Katrina Kaif, Vijay Sethupathi, Tinnu Anand, Radhika Apte, Sanjay Kapoor, Vinay Pathak, Makkal Selvan, Pratima Kannan, Ashwini Kalsekar

DIRECTOR: Sriram Raghavan

In “Merry Christmas,” director Sriram Raghavan, renowned for his mastery of dark thrillers in Bollywood, subtly shifts gears from the fast-paced narrative of “Andhadhun.” He expertly navigates a delicate balance between leisurely and urgent storytelling, blending philosophical depth with provocative themes, and merging sophistication with an energetic flair. This enigmatic film maintains a steady hold on its audience, offering a thoughtful and engaging experience.

Drawing a departure from the black humor of the 2018 hit “Andhadhun,” which was inspired by the French short film “L’accordeur” (The Piano Tuner), “Merry Christmas” presents a more nuanced narrative. Starring the unlikely but intriguing pair of Katrina Kaif and Vijay Sethupathi, the film ventures into a realm seldom explored in both Hindi and, arguably, Tamil cinema. It loosely adapts the work of French crime fiction author Frederic Dard, specifically his book “Le Monte-charge,” known in English as “Bird in a Cage.” The story finds a fitting setting in the Christian neighborhoods of 1980s Bombay, with the title symbolically reflecting elements of entrapment and fluctuation central to the plot.

This is a film where the movement of life and circumstances is akin to the up-and-down journey of a dumbwaiter, yet the film itself remains remarkably steady and composed. This tranquility is captivating, as the film’s measured pacing and occasional slow moments are crucial to its overall impact. The meticulous crafting of each scene — from the precise editing and camera work to the deliberate positioning of characters — builds a sense of anticipation and suspense, keeping the audience intrigued about what might lie just around the corner.

Merry Christmas Movie Review - Bollymoviereviewz

The movie commences with a compelling split-screen visual: two grinders in action. While one grinds chilies and lentils into maligai podi, the other transforms tablets into fine powder. These parallel processes, seemingly mundane, hide deep, dark secrets. As these secrets unravel, they expose the dual aspects of obsessive love when it takes a wrong turn, posing the question: Isn’t life just a grind, where what remains is the taste left behind?

The film is rich in stylistic elements, both visual and musical, which significantly elevate the enigma of a Christmas Eve encounter. This ‘romance’ involves a disenchanted mother, played by Katrina Kaif, caring for her wide-eyed daughter played by Pari Maheshwari Sharma, and a mysterious man returning to Mumbai after a long absence. Their interaction unfolds with the suspense and surprise reminiscent of a Hitchcock thriller, yet it also delves deeply into the moral complexities of love, loyalty, and betrayal in a manner echoing the works of Rohmer.

Crafted by Sriram Raghavan, Arijit Biswas, Pooja Ladha Surti (who is also the editor of the film), and Anukriti Pandey, the screenplay is a mosaic of scattered clues. These seemingly disparate elements gradually gather significance as the story progresses, centered around a woman’s home located above a family-owned bakery, known for supplying butter biscuits to schools. Each element contributes to the intricate narrative, weaving a tale that captivates and challenges the viewer with each twist and turns.

Merry Christmas first reviews: Vignesh praises Katrina, Vijay's performance  | Bollywood - Hindustan Times

Even scenes filled merely with dialogue, fleeting eye contact between strangers, or prolonged moments of uneasy silence as Maria (Katrina Kaif) and Albert (Vijay Sethupathi) strive to bridge their emotional gap, offering the audience layers of depth to appreciate and unravel. The film skillfully avoids feeling pretentious or overly deliberate, instead immersing viewers in a richly nuanced narrative.

The film presents a profound experience for both its central characters and the observant audience, who are treated to an intimate perspective of the unfolding drama without explicit explanations. Cinematographer Madhu Neelakandan wraps the indoor scenes and city landscapes in a magical aura, crafting frames that simultaneously evoke a festive spirit and a sense of mystery.

Katrina Kaif delivers one of her most compelling performances, portraying Maria’s complexity with a remarkable blend of minimalism, confusion, and sporadic resilience. Her portrayal is brilliantly contrasted by Vijay Sethupathi, whose acting hinges on expressive eyes and facial nuances, vividly capturing the turmoil within his character.

“Merry Christmas” is an ingeniously crafted film, employing a soundscape reminiscent of 1980s Hindi cinema ( as an ode to veteran filmmaker Shakti Samant) and a vibrant color palette to create a bewildering atmosphere. This backdrop reflects the themes of loneliness and the aftermath of lost love, as both Maria and Albert navigate their pasts, journeying through the film in search of redemption.

The screenplay engages the audience with profound questions: Is violence preferable to sacrifice? Are self-inflicted wounds more ethically sound than seeking closure at another’s expense? Can a fleeting encounter forge a life-changing secret pact between two individuals whose paths have never crossed until a fateful evening?

Maria and Albert, in their interactions, strike a balance between tranquility and playfulness. Their shared drink at Maria’s home and subsequent walk, exchanging information, serve dual purposes. They break the ice between the characters and offer the audience glimpses of clarity, though this revelation is intentionally partial, blending both concealment and disclosure.

The focus of “Merry Christmas” might be primarily on Kaif and Sethupathi, but it doesn’t relegate its supporting characters to insignificance. Remarkably, even a character with a single, barely audible line isn’t just a mere addition; this character becomes pivotal to the film’s most crucial turning point, illustrating the meticulous attention to detail that characterizes the film.

With Tinnu Anand playing the role of a neighborly uncle, welcoming the wayward Albert back home with a gift of homemade wine. The film skillfully weaves through a cast of memorable characters, from the presence of a ‘lifeless’ Luke Kenny to the dashing Sanjay Kapoor, who plays a caterer bustling with Christmas Eve preparations – a time before ‘event manager’ became a staple term in urban jargon. The narrative concludes with impactful performances from Vinay Pathak, Pratima Kannan, and Ashwini Kalsekar, each leaving a lasting impression.

The film is a blend of intrigue, stimulation, suspense, and subtle challenges, embodying all the qualities of a captivating thriller. It mesmerizes the audience, even in its most perplexing moments, making “Merry Christmas” a thoroughly engaging cinematic experience.

Playing in Theaters. Later on Netflix.

Share this article:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

most popular

I have read and agreed with the terms and conditions and privacy policy.

what you need to know

in your inbox every week.