Sometimes, getting everything you ever wanted just isn’t worth it. Monica, O My Darling — based on mystery author Keigo Higashino’s story “Burûtasu No Shinzou” — explores the dangers that lurk at the top of the socioeconomic ladder.
Jay (Rajkummar Rao) worked his way up from nothing to become an engineer. He’s just been named to the board of directors of Unicorn Robotics, and he’s engaged to Niki (Akansha Ranjan Kapoor), the bubbly daughter of Unicorn’s founder and CEO.
Jay’s also about to lose everything thanks to an affair with the CEO’s assistant, Monica (Huma Qureshi). She tells Jay she’s pregnant with his baby, which she wants to keep. She’ll happily stay quiet about it so long as he pays her.
Jay considers confessing his infidelity to Niki. But when Niki relays a story about a man who cheated on her cousin and says her family will likely kill him or send him to jail, Jay believes her and says nothing.
The thing about Jay is, he’s ambitious but not ruthless. Not in the way rich people are. Not in the way his jealous future brother-in-law Nishi (Sikander Kher) is.
Nishi arranges a meeting with Jay and Arvind (Bagavathi Perumal) — the company’s head of accounting — at a seedy motel. (Special kudos to whoever is responsible for the delightfully bizarre animal art on the walls of the motel.) Apparently, Monica has told all three men that they are the father of her baby and demanded money from each of them. Nishi’s solution is to kill Monica and have Jay and Arvind dispose of the body. If they’re all involved, then none of them will rat on the others. There’s no way regular guys like Jay and Arvind would come up with something so dastardly on their own.
Of course, there are hiccups in the plan’s execution. People die, and Jay falls under suspicion from an unusual detective, ACP Naidu (Radhika Apte).
The tone of Monica, O My Darling isn’t that of a straightforward mystery, but it’s not as colorful and brash as another Netflix Original comic thriller, Ludo. Director Vasan Bala strikes a balance where the film feels simultaneously realistic and unrealistic. The audience is aware they’re watching a film — in particular in scenes when a frame appears around the edges of the screen to mimic the shape of an old TV console and the men imagine Monica scheming like a movie villain — but the stakes feel high nonetheless.
Perhaps the best example of this is in the film’s fight scenes. There are only a few fights in Monica, O My Darling, but they are the movie’s most emotionally impactful sequences. The fight choreography is loose to the point that it appears at first like the actors are just goofing around. As the fight drags on, the gravity of the situation builds and becomes oppressive.
The casting in Monica, O My Darling is outstanding. Rao is the perfect normal guy and Qureshi an ideal vamp. Perumal provides great comic relief. Sukant Goel is creepy as Gaurya — a childhood acquaintance of Jay who wants to be more important than he is. Kher and Apte chew through their scenery like a couple of sharks. They are so fun to watch.
The mystery driving the story forward is compelling, but the payoff is a little unsatisfying. It doesn’t meet Aristotle’s standard of “surprising yet inevitable.” Nevertheless, Monica, O My Darling is an engrossing film with a killer soundtrack. It’s a wonderful followup to Bala’s previous feature film: the excellent karate movie Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota (“The Man Who Feels No Pain.”)