Sriram Raghavan almost cinematically says ‘Go breathe, Sherlock!’ to every sharp mind who thinks they solved the mystery.
On Christmas Eve, two strangers, Maria (Katrina Kaif) and Albert (Vijay Sethupathi) meet. The chance encounter progresses into what seems like a date and a budding relationship. Little do we know (trust me, we did), that the world is about to turn upside down, and the dreamlike situation will turn into a nightmare that will toss the lives of the ones involved, and the ones not too.
Merry Christmas Review:
In the realm of many commercial movies where men reign supreme and fight with violence, also some good ones, and a lot of them trying to spoon-feed, there is always a Sriram Raghavan who respects his audience and treats them like his co-storytellers by taking them on a journey and making them use their brains to understand his world. And all of this while he is entertaining. Merry Christmas, which hits cinema halls today, is not at par with Andhadhun (the benchmark is too high and even Sriram himself will take years to surpass it) but is a banger of an idea that keeps you hooked until the last frame and beyond. I am still haunted by one of the best proposal sequences I have ever seen. But about that later.
Written by Raghavan with his longtime collaborators Pooja Ladha Surti (Andhadhun, Ek Hasina Thi, Badlapur) and Arijit Biswas (Andhadhun, Badlapur, Agent Vinod), it is a mirage to be defined in a word. The idea this time around is to welcome you into a love story of two star-crossed people roaming around Vienna (Bombay) and exploring each other layer by layer. Yes, I made a Before Sunrise reference. But this one here is Before Sunrise gone wrong, and the world is turned upside down. What meets the naked eye is the truth that your mind wants to believe, but the heart knows there is something fishy. Sriram almost answers all your questions in the first 20 minutes or so and takes you on a ride like clean slates.
Merry Christmas is intricate. Because the suspense is strong, and the mystery intact. The filmmaker is not making over-the-top efforts but is very religious about his setting. He is brave enough to cast two people you cannot think of in a room together and that works supremely well here. The storyline, which I cannot reveal much about, is lucrative and very interestingly shaped. During the big reveal, he purposely makes you think that you have solved the mystery even before the film reaches that point, but when it does, he stands behind the monitor and says, “Go breathe, Sherlock!”.
Merry Christmas hits out of the park when it gets into the game after a lot of simmering and that definitely does wonders. To some, it may feel like it’s stretched beyond required, but I can see the filmmaker trying to indulge his viewers to the max. Yes, it somewhere doesn’t land completely, but it neither acts as a sour note. The classic Sriram Raghavan formula is this time blended with a whole lot of humor and a dark shade of it. As a contemporary at the screening said, this could be the funniest Raghavan movie to date and I agree. All of his leads to a climax with the most haunting silent proposal of love I have ever seen in world cinema. Someone takes the blame for someone they love, and it is their way of proposing. Ufff!
The referencing and Easter eggs are impeccable. Andhadhun is referenced more than twice. The timeline is when Mumbai was Bombay but no year is mentioned. The Merry Widow juxtaposition, the silent treatment to the climax, Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyoon Aata Hai mention. There is even a mute character witnessing all this madness while it unfolds and is the only witness. Remember Aakash in Andhadhun when Simi cleans the house after killing her husband? Or the blind pianist in Agent Vinod at the bar where the shootout happens? A trajectory Raghavan is obsessed with and knows how to revamp newly every single time. Also, a perfect homage to Shakti Samanta!
Katrina Kaif needs to give all other actors classes on how to look this confident when Vijay Sethupathi is in the same frame. The man is literally breathing Albert and saying lines with maximum impact while having a straight face, A STRAIGHT FACE! And even in this space, Katrina holds her ground. The writing, of course, fills the very little void she leaves, but this version of Kaif is one that we deserve, and like I always say the Post-Zero Katrina is an ace performer in search I good roles. Sanjay Kapoor is yet again a man who feels he knows it all but is the most clueless (Made In Heaven, Lust Stories) and plays it so well. Ashwini Kalsekar in a cameo is hilarious and I so wish she had some more screen time.
Yes, there are loopholes. The biggest is that the two decide to remain strangers who don’t disclose their names and end up revealing each other in the very next minute. A setup that serves as the biggest reveal makes you think how didn’t the two men didn’t even peep on the other side. But then Raghavan leaves very little room for you to have other thoughts and it is a sign of a brilliant filmmaker.
Talking of brilliance, the technical team needs a raise and a big one. Of course, Pritam has already served one brilliant album within the first fortnight of 2024, of course, Varun Grover’s words are shooting and effective, but the background score by Daniel B. George is detailed to the max. At one point Maria tells Albert to choose one of the two fingers, and a small piano note plays when he touches her finger, such delicate detailing.
Merry Christmas: Verdict
Merry Christmas is a film so aware of its premise and audience that at no point does it let's the grip go loose. Sriram Raghavan holds you until the very end and serves a movie that is rewarding and thought-provoking at the same time.