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Updated January 13th, 2024 at 09:06 IST

Merry Christmas Review: Katrina Kaif, Vijay Sethupathi's Chemistry Shines In Delectable Thriller

Merry Christmas, starring Katrina Kaif and Vijay Sethupathi, merits a watch in a theatre purely for the risk-taking and the thrill and intrigue it offers.

Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas poster | Image:IMDb
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2023 saw a paradigm shift in Bollywood. While the Hindi film industry's business was revived post-pandemic with several blockbusters hit that brought audiences back to the theatres, it also established a certain safe zone for filmmakers to follow. Action dramas became the go-to success formula and very few films outside the genre succeeded. In such a landscape, Sriram Raghavan’s Merry Christmas feels like a breath of fresh air.

A still from Merry Christmas | Image: Katrina Kaif/Instagram

Hot Take

After Andhadhun (2018), which emerged as a sleeper hit at the box office, it’s only fair for the audience to expect another edge-of-the-seat, dark, comedy-thriller from Raghavan. The good thing about Merry Christmas, the director's latest, is that it both caters to and subverts expectations. The resultant is a delectable, moody narrative that has many surprises to offer, even humour.

Does Merry Christmas live up to the hype?

While the climax of Merry Christmas may leave the audience divided, the film more or less delivers on all fronts.

Raghavan's penchant for blending humour and thrill shines through

All of Raghavan's movies have an undercurrent of humour. In Merry Christmas, the filmmaker consistently delivers unexpected moments of laughter, however, he never plays down the tension. In a certain sequence in the second half, we follow a character who is confused yet trying to make sense of a macabre chain of events. These portions are amusing and allow us to emotionally invest in the characters and the storyline. The film is packed with many such moments where Raghavan's penchant for blending humour and thrill shines through.

A still from Merry Christmas | Image: YouTube screengrab

Skilfully fragmented narrative

The filmmaker’s mastery shows in how he spends the entire first half solely building the premise and setting the mood while barely telling us anything significant about the protagonists. There are plenty of clues though - Albert (Vijay Sethupathi) nervously glancing away when he sees someone, that one dialogue Maria (Katrina Kaif) whispers in her daughter's ear while putting her to bed. There is enough in the first half to keep us intrigued while we still try to figure out where the plot and the characters are headed.

It’s the second half that is the make or break for the film.

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A still from Merry Christmas | Image: YouTube screengrab

Once the mystery is revealed, the film temporarily shifts to a doesn't live upto the expectations of a pacy thriller. However, this section also remains integral to what Raghavan tries to daringly accomplish in the climax. The final act of the film is a masterstroke, the way it suddenly opens a can of worms and all the unexplained, small figments of intrigue come together to create a suspenseful segment. At the same time, it leaves the audience divided because of how suddenly it arrives and leaves before one could register what unfolded.

An aesthetic delight

With Merry Christmas, it becomes all the more evident that Raghavan is one of the few filmmakers who is exploring cinema from a purely aesthetic perspective. While one of the protagonists does have a tragic backstory that offers a subtle commentary on power dynamics in couples, Merry Christmas works purely as an enticing whodunit where every scene has something to offer. Raghavan also incorporates homages to yesteryear greats like Vijay Anand and Basu Chatterjee to elevate the mood of the narrative. Not to mention the filmmaker’s exemplary use of Western classical music to build tension. From its opening frame to the closing shot, Merry Christmas revels in its identity as a pursuer of aesthetic pleasure and succeeds.

Vijay Sethupathi and Katrina Kaif live up to the mark

One of the most striking, albeit expected aspects of Merry Christmas is the crackling chemistry Vijay Sethupathi and Katrina Kaif share onscreen. Vijay Sethupathi delivers a great performance that is in complete sync with the film's tonality. He delivers deadpan lines with utmost ease, yet never makes his character seem frivolous. If the film holds well in the second half despite its slight lack of tonal grip it’s because of the warmth that Katrina and Vijay bring in their conversational scenes, especially where they talk about their past.

Merry Christmas deserves brownie points for its casting. Veterans Vinay Pathak and Pratima Kazmi are perfectly cast as two simple-looking, sly-thinking cops who can deliver laughs with just a gaze. Ashwini Kalsekar too makes a brief but memorable appearance.

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A still from Merry Christmas | Image: YouTube screengrab

Watch it or skip it?

Merry Christmas merits a watch in a theatre purely for the risk-taking and the thrill and intrigue it offers. Besides its tense and moody storytelling, Raghavan has a tremendous amount of aesthetic beauty to offer which makes it worthwhile.

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Bottomline

At a time when most mainstream movie content is beginning to look increasingly formulaic and calculated, it’s a great pleasure to watch a film like Merry Christmas that dances to its tunes.

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Rating - 3.5/5 Stars

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Published January 12th, 2024 at 12:34 IST

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