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Merry Christmas Movie Review: Jai Sriram!

Updated on: 12 January,2024 10:49 PM IST  |  Mumbai
Mayank Shekhar |

There’s an inherent genuineness, if not goodness, about the Tamilian veteran, Sethupathi (Super Deluxe, Farzi), as a person perhaps, that it simply shines through the screen; no matter what he plays on it

A still from Merry Christmas

Movie: Merry Christmas
U/A: Thriller, Romance
Director: Sriram Raghavan
Cast: Katrina Kaif, Vijay Sethupathi 
Rating: 3.5/5

While the film is titled Merry Christmas, primarily set in an apartment above a bakery—one thing you know, even before stepping into the theatre is it’ll be loaded with trays after trays of Easter eggs. Meaning, inside jokes and references to books, movies, pop-culture, in general. 

Sometimes overtly so, in the sense of a screaming dedication to director Shakti Samanta, to start with, a or a thank-you credit for French filmmaker, Éric Rohmer. 
But mostly subtle, for the spotting—in the sense of, say, the Parinda song Pyar ke mod pe, playing for muzak in the old-world cinema, Regal, followed by the familiar tune of the ‘Lime ‘n’ lemony Limca’ ad!

We look forward to such elements, even return to rewatch films for that reason alone—because it’s directed by Sriram Raghavan, easily the most loved film-buff filmmaker, this side of Quentin Tarantino. 

For, what’s nostalgia anyway, if not gleaning through stuff from the past, near or distant, that made you feel so happy—as it instantly does, when you relive it, through familiar sounds, images, experiences. 

While this is technically a thriller, involving death, in fact—Merry Christmas strangely feels like a cheery film. Besides the catty dialogues, much of the joyousness comes from the sorted lead actors on the screen—Katrina Kaif, and Vijay Sethupathi. Seldom have stars from separate skies been positioned so well opposite each other.

There’s an inherent genuineness, if not goodness, about the Tamilian veteran, Sethupathi (Super Deluxe, Farzi), as a person perhaps, that it simply shines through the screen; no matter what he plays on it. 

For instance, he could seem completely creepy alongside the effervescent, relaxed, casually stunning Kaif, that his relatively unkempt character bumps into, at a restaurant, in this film—and pretty much follows her around thereafter. 

An inexplicable alchemy between Kaif and Sethupathi makes the most unlikely situations appear wholly believable. You just connect. And don’t question why.
Merry Christmas is set over a night in Bombay—as the filmmakers put, when it wasn’t Mumbai yet. How do we know this, without saying it? 

To begin with, watching the male lead step off the rainbow-coloured weighing machine in a railway station, that coughs out a ticket with your weight and life’s prediction on it. You’ve got to be of a certain vintage to realise how much we loved getting on those weighing machines, with a coin, on rail platforms, growing up! 
Where is Sethupathi’s character from? He says Dubai, and that he hated the discipline there, which sounds like a jail! His mother has died, which makes him a bit of a Camus, existentialist fellow, looking lost, simply going about his first night, upon return to his city. 

What about the gorgeous lady with a globish accent (Kaif), who takes him home? Well, you’re not supposed to know much about these two people, besides the events that bind them together. 

Raghavan, as a tightly crafty filmmaker, is the master of the first half, when he lays out a plot. Often, he could paint himself in the corner, while concluding what he’s set up—case in point, Ek Hasina Thi (2004), his directorial debut itself. 

With Merry Christmas, you could go through the first half, laughing at the lines, soaking in the atmosphere, intrigued by the characters, but reach the interval, and wonder, “But, hey, nothing really happened here; it felt like a play!” 

Which it is, while the plot triggers off only in the second half, as more actors—the quintessential happy men, Sanjay Kapoor, Tinnu Anand, included—add to the suspense.

Since there is a death, there will be cops, with our own Hercule Poirot (Vinay Pathak) on the beat. But you’d do yourself a favour by not deciphering this like a police procedural. 

The eyes, inevitably alert to every moment, stay glued to the smart storytelling, and the actors, of course. Each in top form. The film is admittedly based on a French novel, Le Monte-charge, which I’m pretty sure, you haven’t read. Neither have I.

The film also credits a separate writing team for its Tamil version. Which makes me wanna watch that version all the more—for how the story plays out there, besides spotting more Easter Eggs, obviously. The ending, for example. It’s open-ended, yes. 

Hard for Raghavan to resist that, ever since the level of fan-fiction derived from the mischievous conclusion of Andhadhun (2018), his last release. Does the suspense-drama and the turns and twists in Merry Christmas top Andhadhun? Nope—but nothing since has, either. Fun follow-up, though!  

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