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Merry Christmas Review: Katrina Kaif and Vijay Setupathi’s thriller is intriguing but disappointing – News

The film generated interest from the moment it was announced, mainly due to the leads – Vijay Setupathi and Katrina Kaif.

Published: Friday, January 12, 2024, 10:22 p.m.

Last update: Friday, January 12, 2024, 10:23 p.m.

Director: Sriram Raghavan

Starring: Vijay Setupathi, Katrina Kaif

Classification: 3 star

For a true cinephile, a Sriram Raghavan film is a cause for celebration. If there is one director who perfectly blends style, substance, quirks and emotion, it is Raghavan. The author, whose repertoire features brilliant neo-noir gems like Ek Hasina Thi, Johnny Gaddar, Badlapur and Andhadhun, has a unique ability to weave a fascinating world with morally ambivalent characters trying to commit the perfect crime.

They may or may not get away with it, but their skill as a filmmaker lies in drawing you into this world, making you a happy participant, and even forcing you to put on your detective hat without realizing it when you guess, ‘What could have happened?’ happened?’. Loose ends, without the need to tie plot points into a perfect bow, make for fascinating viewing.

Cheerful Christmas, Raghavan’s latest, falls into similar territory. The film generated interest from the moment it was announced, mainly because of the leads – Vijay Setupathi and Katrina Kaif. He, a famous actor and she, the epitome of Bollywood glamour.

The premise is time-tested, but foolproof as far as thrillers go. Two strangers meet one night in Bombay (when it was still Bombay and not Mumbai) and strike up a connection. One thing leads to another, but instead of a fairy tale ending, a shady murder and some drastic attempts at a cover-up ensue. Katrina Kaif and Vijay Setupathi play the aforementioned strangers whose paths cross on a fateful Christmas night.

Maria (Katrina), mother of an adorable little girl, has pain and pathos written all over her beautiful face, but how can Albert (Vijay) resist when she offers him a drink? She takes him to her lair…sorry…to her well-appointed apartment, and the plot thickens. Their midnight relationship has many elements: compassion, empathy, concern and chemistry, and it could have led to something more, but alas! A shocking surprise awaits them (and us) that will shatter their world.

Frankly, the viewer can feel the murder from a mile away. We also know that Maria is not who she presents herself to be and Albert has some revelations of his own. The dream apartment in a musty old building in South Mumbai, Maria’s nervous behavior, the silence of the festive night and the air of mystery, all backed by Daniel B. George’s magnificent background music and the melancholic cinematography by Madhu Neelakandan, make you wait impatiently. the action to start.

Unfortunately, that’s where the movie loses. The first 45 to 50 minutes of Merry Christmas are spent building the world as Maria and Albert have long conversations on the road and at home that, truth be told, can test your patience. Needless to say, there are several red herrings and Easter eggs that Raghavan drops and you need to be on your toes to catch them.

The scene comes alive only when the murder takes place with another stranger entering the space: Ronny, a flirtatious caterer played with delight by Sanjay Kapoor.

Like any other Sriram Raghavan film, Merry Christmas also celebrates Hindi cinema. In one scene, an instrumental version of RD Burman’s soulful Pyar ke Mod Pe plays in the background, while in another, Asha Bhosle’s boisterous number Chor Chor from the 1973 film Raja Rani is belted out. His love for retro continues in this film too with a scene showing Setupathi buying an old train ticket with Rajesh Khanna’s face printed on it.

These little touches, the cinematic twists, little details like the thrillers in Maria’s houses, the use of origami and the seductive climax where the characters act with perfect synchronicity to hide a secret, make this film several levels above from the common. Furthermore, unlike their previous projects, there is a certain tenderness, vulnerability and love between the characters that opens up several possibilities.

Merry Christmas is a class act, but despite so many advantages, the execution fails to maintain interest beyond a point and that is due to the slow pace. A little too slow! The rewards are plentiful if you keep at it and one of them is the performance of each actor. Vijay Setupathi is as reliable as ever, confident even in Albert’s discomfort, but it’s Katrina Kaif who is the real surprise. She manages to hold her own against Setupathi, letting herself go with abandon in some scenes (watch out for the brilliant impromptu dance that breaks into her house) while she shows steely restraint and determination in others. Their unusual chemistry is the basis of the story.

There are so many things I like about Merry Christmas, even if the parts never add up to a satisfying whole. If you’re really patient, celebrate this festive murder mystery in theaters.

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