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'Monica O My Darling' Review: This Cast Is Perfect for the Pulpiest of Stories

'Monica O My Darling', starring Huma Qureshi, Radhika Apte, and Rajkummar Rao, is streaming on Netflix.

Published
Movie Reviews
4 min read

The impact that the song ‘Piya Tu Ab To Aaja’, from the 1971 film Caravan, had on the Indian audience can’t be put into tangible terms. It’s widely considered one of Asha Bhosle’s best songs, especially when it came to cabaret tracks. Helen’s inclusion in the song, a woman frequently referred to as Bollywood’s cabaret queen and the ‘eternal mehbooba’, only added to its allure.

So does the film, Monica O My Darling, that attached its name to the iconic song, manage to recreate that old Bollywood charm?

Monica O My Darling stars Rajkummar Rao (as Jayant Arkhedkar), Huma Qureshi (as Monica Machado), Radhika Apte (as ACP Naidu), and Sikander Kher, among others.  

Rajkummar Rao and Huma Qureshi in a still from Monica O My Darling.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

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After a shocking murder in the first five minutes, the show moves on to show Jayant (or Jay) getting a big promotion at work. However, his euphoria is short-lived. He finds out that Monica is pregnant, supposedly with his child – this poses complications for him since he’s dating his boss’ daughter. 

As he tries to grapple with the new developments, he is joined by other men who believe that Monica is trying to “blackmail” them. A diabolical plan is hatched but things then start to go haywire with each person looking at the other suspiciously. 

Rajkummar Rao in a still from Monica O My Darling.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

What follows is multiple attempts (and successes) at murder even as ACP Naidu tries to solve the case, with Jay being her prime suspect and the situations he ends up in don’t help his case. As a cast, all the actors fit into their roles perfectly. 

Rajkummar Rao as the small-town boy finally living his dreams because of his technology, who is stuck in an impossible situation, is noteworthy.

He has played roles with similar tonalities in films like Stree, Ludo, and Judgementall Hai Kya, but something about the actor’s charm is easy to buy into every time. 

As Monica, Huma Qureshi imbibes the film with the essence of the pulp noir genre – mixing glamour effortlessly with a strong performance her nuanced character deserves. Her role requires her to shift from frustrated to sad to manic laughter in the matter of minutes and she delivers.

Huma Qureshi in a still from Monica O My Darling.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

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Through her character, the film explores how patriarchy functions as the men around her continue to suspect and blame her for things she has no control over.

Monica is not a perfect character and Monica O My Darling does a commendable job of explaining her circumstances while also keeping her humane. 

Both their acts are also expertly complemented by the film’s music and cinematography. The lyrics by Varun Grover and music by Achint Thakkar managed to recreate the brilliance of 80s Bollywood music to such an extent that I had to check if the song ‘Yeh Ek Zindagi’ was a remix (multiple times). 

Huma Qureshi in a still from the song 'Yeh Ek Zindagi' in Monica O My Darling.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

The film’s background score borrows heavily from the works of RD Burman and Laxmikant Pyarelal, which adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the film’s thrilling premise.

That being said, the film drags in the first half, filled with context and brooding shots that threaten to derail it. The attention to detail is perhaps too attentive. 

Radhika Apte’s entry as ACP Naidu uplifts the film with her wit and comedic timing. The dialogues by Yogesh Chandekar and director Vasan Bala’s vision both create a character that is a riot on screen every time even as she acts as a foil to Jay. 

Radhika Apte in a still from Monica O My Darling.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

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Sikander Kher, too, delivers a noteworthy performance, bringing to life a quintessential Bollywood villain complete with crisp suits, a cigarette always on his lips, and daddy issues. 

To the film’s credit, nothing is as it seems. While the red herrings work for the majority of the film to keep the audience immersed in the tale they’re weaving, the ending feels rather underwhelming. The red herrings, in themselves, are so attractive that the ending (even if not predictable) seems lackluster. 

Sikander Kher in a still from Monica O My Darling.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

In a thriller, it can be easy to want to keep the audience on their toes but the last section of a film can always be used to explain motivation instead of using it for shock value. 

Vasan Bala’s expertise as a director comes from the intricate story he weaves on screen but his expertise as a storyteller comes from the layers.

While the film careens through one plot twist after another, there is also allegory about class struggle and how every rung of the class ladder sees the ‘other’ as an invisible entity, existing only as a cog in the machinery for their success. 

The fact that machines are such an integral part of the story only makes this allegory stronger.

In summary, Monica O My Darling is an intriguing story set in a delicious pulpy universe with a great cast. With a tighter edit and a more concise story, the film would’ve been almost impossible to put down (but even as it stands, it's a fun watch). 

Monica O My Darling is streaming on Netflix.

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Topics:  Huma Qureshi   Radhika Apte   Rajkummar Rao 

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