The first half of the new Sriram Raghavan movie Merry Christmas is a deliberately bad love story. I was like, why is this looking so odd? How can this be the draft Sriram opted to film out of the various versions he wrote? The first half that sort of establishes this romantic relationship felt like Sriram Raghavan’s attempt to create a Before Sunrise-like conversational romantic film with a signature twist. But the oddness of the initial parts starts to look extremely sensible in the second half when every detail gets linked to an intricate and entertaining mystery.
The story is set in a time when Mumbai was called Bombay. Albert has returned to his ancestral house after seven long years on Christmas Eve. He is welcomed by an uncle in that neighborhood. Albert, who had lost his mother during those seven years, decides to go out to enjoy the beauty of the city and have dinner for himself. Things took an interesting turn when he met a woman along with her child at a restaurant. Albert strikes up a conversation with the lady, whose name is Maria, and the two decide to spend that night together. The series of unprecedented events that happened in the lives of the two that night is what we see in Merry Christmas.
Sriram Raghavan’s movies always had that dark yet quirky shade to their credit, and Andhadhun was perhaps the quirkiest of them all, making it the most profitable venture out of all his movies. While Andhadhun managed to get you excited almost from the word go, here establishing the characters and their backdrop is given a lot of space. Once the setting is done and the movie reaches the second half, where we see Albert looking at the whole thing from the POV of the audience, things start to unravel pretty differently, and the signature Sriram Raghavan elements start to kick in. Every seemingly pointless detail we see in the earlier part of the movie has a purpose in making the somewhat unthinkable “twist” in the tale look plausible. And the climax was of course a peculiar mix of humor, surprise, irony, and despair.
Vijay Sethupathi, as Albert, plays a Tamilian in the film, hence, the accent never really becomes a botheration. There is a typical shyness associated with all his less verbal characters, and Sriram Raghavan utilizes that to a good extent. Albert is a character who is practically exploring the whole plot with the audience. That curiosity was there in Sethupathi’s performance, and there will be empathy for the character in your heart. Katrina Kaif, as the panicking wife character, looks pretty convincing on screen, especially when the character acts confident. The chemistry between the main leads is less verbal, and it happens mostly through how they exchange looks. Radhika Apte is there in a cameo role along with Sanjay Kapoor and Vinay Pathak.
Sriram Raghavan has maintained the texture of a Hitchcock movie in the way he stages everything. Be it the hero and heroine sitting in a theater, their dancing night, or the madness that unfolds in the second half, the way those scenes are approached will remind you of classic noir films. The twist in the tale that happens at the midway point is something that can look bizarre if not done properly. But I must give it to the writing team because the people with whom I was watching the movie were coming up with crazier theories, and compared to them, what we finally see is a pretty rational one. I mean, making people do those permutations in their heads is also creative smartness. The darks in the visuals and the colors in certain interior sequences subconsciously convey the mystery setting of the movie. The music by Pritam is slightly on the louder side, but it was not like a T-Series remix got squeezed into it.
To enjoy Merry Christmas, you need a certain level of patience, as Sriram Raghavan is not really trying to please the gallery by creating a jarring plot twist moment every 10 or 15 minutes. If you like the aspect of connecting the dots and enjoying a bit of dark humor in tragic situations, I would say by the time you finish Merry Christmas, you will get that feeling of watching something cinematically delightful that sort of respects your intelligence and your demand for something unique.
By the time you finish Merry Christmas, you will get that feeling of watching something cinematically delightful that sort of respects your intelligence and your demand for something unique.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended