Monica, Oh My Darling Review: A wildly entertaining neo-noir comic thriller
Starring: Rajkumar Rao, Radhika Apte, Huma Qureshi, Sikandar Kher
Director: Vasan Bala
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Oh my darling, Monica never had a row of teacups playing in less than an hour. The titular role—the CEO’s secretary—makes the chai for her boss and the company’s chief technology developer. The latter shakes. He fears a fatal slip between cup and lip.
Director Vasan Bala and screenwriter Yogesh Sandekar convey this misguided moment with a delicious blend of wit, wickedness and eccentricity that defines the neo-noir comic thriller in its entirety. Netflix’s Monica, Oh My Darling is a brilliantly entertaining movie full of winks, twists and turns that keeps on giving until the final demise.
It’s a delightfully sly, subversive mix that examines the goings-on in a Pune-based company that knows nothing. The film taps into the nuts and bolts and other necessary tools of the genre to create an experience that, sometimes playfully and sometimes abruptly by the scruff of the neck, plunges the audience into a moral black hole. A bond constantly attracts their intrigues but there is no way out.
Behind the manipulations and frenzied actions of warped minds, a privileged group struggles with the non-privileged who not only seek their flesh, but find ways to get it.
Rajkummar Rao plays robotics expert Jayant Arkedkar, a small-town youth who enters the corporate charm circle. Branded a hypocrite and a parasite by a rival within the company, he is drawn into a diabolical plot that can only spell trouble. Determined not to pull the rug from under his feet, he plunged deeper and deeper down the dark rabbit hole.
Huma Qureshi as Monica Machado, secretary to a high-ranking honcho, is a woman who finds herself slipping down a slippery slope. And Radhika Apte, billed a la Bran “above all” in Hindi films of another era, ACP Naidu, smartly shows her way into the police force.
Here, the line separating the acceptable from the questionable is thin, no no. As those at the top of a unicorn group of companies struggle to protect the thin turf they believe they have rightfully earned, the “invisible men” – the male protagonist is acutely aware of what it means to be one of them – chip away from the fringes of an impenetrable power structure, looking for a way out.
In this barbaric war, all is fair and there is little chance for love, not even between brother and sister. Oh my darling, Monica has two sets of them. The CEO’s lanky son Nishikant (Sikandar Kher) and his daughter Nikki (Akansha Ranjan Kapoor) show no animosity towards each other. Unicorn employee Jay and his younger sibling Shalu (Jane Marie Kahn) aren’t exactly in a drawn-out boxing match, but are wary of each other at the best of times.
With the help of a brilliant screenplay and an incredible cast, Vasan Bala combines all that a twisted thriller should have and adds his own richness in the form of wonderfully natural, indigenous elements fueled by an unbridled love and passion for popular cinema. The familiar can be transformed into the new with minimal fuss.