Thursday, July 18, 2024

Film Review: Merry Christmas is a “Sangeen” story with a “Rangeen” Narrative

Prakash Gowda 

“Raat jitni Sangeen Hogi, Subah utni Rangeen Hogi” promises the poster of Sriram Raghavan’s latest offering, ‘Merry Christmas’, which is enough to pique one’s interest to find the ‘sangeen’ side of the story that would make for a ‘rangeen’ viewing experience. The film doesn’t disappoint.

The film’s masterstroke lies in its ‘unusual’ casting. Vijay Sethupathi (Makkal Selvan, which means Common Man’s Hero) and Katrina Kaif, who share a wonderful chemistry that makes you believe that they’d fall in love, despite knowing it well that it’s unlikely to happen, given the sombre milieu the film is set in. “Sombre Christmas?” You’d wonder, but it’s a Matchbox Production, which is more notorious for lighting pyres than candles. So, the red of Santa’s socks reminds you of unshed blood and the green of the Christmas Tree just might be the green of colour of envy.

Vijay Sethupathi makes his character Albert endearing enough to root for him till the last frame (literally). The ‘Makkal Selvan’ adds layers to his character through his impeccable body language, something as simple as a Christmas jig isn’t just a jig but revelation about the fact that he has never danced since he was a child. He does explain his dance moves with a line, which again, should be left for you to revel in, and mull over – A simple line laced with complex emotions.

Katrina Kaif abandons her glamour avatar and makes her character Maria believable in a way that you don’t believe a thing she says. You know there is something that Maria is hiding and the screenwriters, Sriram Raghavan, Arijit Biswas, Pooja Ladha Surti, and Anukriti Pandey keep you guessing till the second half of this film, based on the French book, ‘Le Monte-charge’ by Frederick Dard.

Actors Tinnu Anand, Pratima Kazmi, Vinay Pathak and Ashwini Khalsekar leave their mark with their performances. Luke Kenny makes a surprising cameo appearance. Sanjay Kapoor plays a role that seems to have tailor-made for him, especially the ‘Wedding Ring Finger’ scene with Vinay Pathak.

What begins as a love story leaves enough of bread crumps for you to deduce that this isn’t going to be a Yashrajesque ride with Katrina donning a chiffon saree in snows (You get to see her in two costumes, sorry to disappoint). The lilting melodies of Pritam leaves you craving for more, especially the song ‘Nazar teri toofan’ sung by Papon and beautifully penned by Varun Grover. There’s more to this song when the director adds his signature touch to it, which is something better left for you to savour.

Merry Christmas enamours you with its old-world charms set in Mumbai when it was Bombay. The Regal theatre makes a nostalgic cameo, just like few strains of ‘Kayi baar yun bhi dekha hai’ from Basu Chatterjee’s ‘Rajnigandha’, ‘Pyaar ke mod par’ from ‘Parinda’ (One of the most underrated songs of Parinda that got overshadowed by the popular ‘Tumse milke’), RD Burman’s another unnoticed gem, ‘Jab andhera hota hai’ from ‘Raja Rani’, Director Sriram Raghavan indulges you in a game of ‘Spot-the-song’, ‘Offline Shazam’. Well, the dedication to Shakti Samanta too makes one hope that someone from the Gen Z would Google the name and catch up with his impressive body of work. Kudos to Cinematographer Madhu Neelakandan and Art Direction team for re-creating Bombay of the 90s. Editor Pooja Ladha Surti keeps the film crisp enough to hold your attention and even spot the little giveaways that the Director plants in his narrative.

Nostalgia and old-world charms aside, Merry Christmas has a gripping screenplay that keeps you hooked till the end, only if you can endure the leisurely pace at which the film moves in its first twenty minutes. There are stories within the story of Merry Christmas – The hilarious ‘Bhaaloo-Sher’ story and the ‘Fish-Swami’ story, both playing a key role in the way the film’s story ends. Speaking of the ending, it’s a tad underwhelming, or maybe Mr. Raghavan has spoiled us silly with his previous outings. One may also find the ending a bit unreasonable, but nonetheless, the film will not bore or disappoint.

To sum it up, Merry Christmas will transport you to a world of stories where there’s a ring to every Mistletoe Bird’s chime and a mystery behind every chimney’s smoke. One could imagine Mr. Hitchcock winking and smiling, somewhere up above.

Rating – 7 out of 10

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