There are times when the name of a movie is enough to hook your interest and create expectations. That’s what happened to me when I first heard about “Monica, O My Darling”. And it’s no coincidence that the name of the film is inspired by the chorus of the track “Piya Tu Ab Toh Aaja” from the 1971 Bollywood film, Caravan.
Adapted from the 1989 Japanese novel “Burutasu No Shinzou” by Keigo Higashino, “Monica, O My Darling” is a vintage-style crime thriller that may also share the label of dark comedy. Vasan Bala directs this neo-noir themed film which, although it functions as a classic Bollywood thriller, is refreshing and entertaining to watch.
The film begins with the murder of a worker at the Union factory and we don’t know who the killer is. Then we are taken forward six months and introduced to Jayant Arkhedkar (Rajkummar Rao) who is promoted to the company’s board of directors on its 50th anniversary. Robotics engineer Jayant, who is a rising star at Unicorn, comes from very humble beginnings but managed to impress company CEO Satyanarayana Adhikari and his daughter Nikki Adhikari to whom he is engaged.
At the same event, the CEO’s secretary, Monica Machado (Huma Qureshi), shows up with an alluring cabaret-style dance routine. We quickly learn that Monica is having an affair with Jayant and is apparently pregnant with his child. She tells Jayant that she wants to raise the child and that he should pay for her education if he doesn’t want her spilling the beans, potentially ruining his life.
But Jayant isn’t the only one having an affair with Monica and being blackmailed. Arvind Manivannan, from Unicorn’s accounts department, and Nishikant Adhikari, Satyanarayana’s son, are both blackmailed by Monica. She also told them that she was pregnant with their child. The three men then come together to plot the murder of Monica and get rid of her to end their troubles.
This is when things start to get really interesting in the movie. A murder takes place but it’s not Monica. And then another murder takes place and all the characters are engulfed in fear of who will be next.
Jayant, as the main character, faces a few assassination attempts, and that only deepens the mystery. And when ACP Vijayashanti Naidu (Radhika Apte) enters the scene to investigate the murder, the already gripping sequences turn into entertainment in their own right.
There’s a lot to love about “Monica, O My Darling.” First of all, the screenplay is a near-perfect screen adaptation of the crime novel. Taking a piece of literature written in a totally different setting, in a different country and context, and then transforming it to suit your target audience is a difficult task. The writing and the realization of the film are at the rendezvous.
The film has an ensemble cast. These are not necessarily big names in Bollywood but faces that we have seen time and time again prove themselves in Indian cinema. Also in this movie, there’s so much to love about “Monica, O My Darling.” First of all, the screenplay is a near-perfect screen adaptation of the crime novel.
Rao is in his element and delivers yet again but there is nothing extraordinary about him. Qureshi also looks natural and in tune with what is happening around her. But it’s Apte’s character as ACP Vijayashanti that leaves audiences amazed. As a powerful police officer in charge of the investigation, she is excellent in the film, doing full justice to her character. You’ll have to watch the movie to witness the savagery she unleashes on screen.
With its retro Bollywood title, I expected the film to be a bit more musical than it actually is. The movie only has one song titled “Yeh Ek Zindagi” which tries to emulate 70s disco/cabaret music. The rest of the background music by Achint Thakkar matches the theme of the movie, but still a Sometimes expectations can be cruel.
Who should watch it?
‘Monica, O My Darling’ is as good as a neo-noir Hindi film can get – there’s mystery, thrill and plenty of style in the film. Anyone who loves a good watch, regardless of genre or language, will definitely appreciate the film.
Rating: 4 stars
Autonomy: 2h 9min
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Director: Vasan Bala