Merry Christmas

wogma rating: Beg or borrow, but do watch (?)

quick review:

I was on the edge of my seat for all but the first minute of the film. Mentally, even if not literally. Everything in the film comes together towards that end—keeping you on the edge. Will not ask for more from a thriller!

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Director: Sriram Raghavan
Running time: 145 minutes
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Till it’s not the whodunnit, it’s the philosophical nuggets that keep your mind glued to the screen. So that you don’t miss one. When it’s not the reflective musings, it’s the wry and dark one-liners that have you pegged to the narrative. When it’s not the humour, the thriller’s crux holds you to the story.

So much to hook on to, so much to wonder about.

Interestingly for a good 45-60 minutes, the mystery doesn’t even begin. But, you know it is there. And once you know what it’s about, you try to figure out how. Once you know how, you wonder how they will get out of it. And actually worry for the filmmaker. How are the makers going to wrap this up in 45 minutes!? And if they do, won’t it spoil the rhythm of the film, one they have created with so much tenderness? Of course, we needn’t worry, they do it. And do it with subtlety and panache, allowing you to put the pieces together.

My heart is so full of joy with the climax. Even though this finish is as subtle, as it is in-the-face. It manages to be both at once and yet not cringe. It just made me so happy—after 2 hours and 15 minutes of build-up, it doesn’t have the perpetrator narrate how smart they were and cockily run us through the steps. It isn’t even one person who does this unveiling. The suspense reveals itself through the situation, through the expressions and body language of the actors. 4 hours since I walked out of the theatre and I am still wowed by the last 15 minutes of the film more than anything else.

And all through the performances, the music, the ambience created don’t fall a notch. The consistency in all these departments is so, so rare in Hindi films. That combined with some ace character-and-situation writing and acts made this pulp thriller into a film worth repeat watches. Of course, a hat-tip and a bow to the novel that the film is based on*. At the same time, the writing team’s adaptation is first-rate. I absolutely loved the realisation that one of the things that annoyed me the most…“would a woman really do what this woman is doing?” had an answer! And what an explanation! Also, on the side, I really wish I got all the references they have sprinkled through the film.

No way for me to know how much of it is director Sriram Raghavan’s doing and what parts the rest of the writing team contributed—but I could watch the film for just the flair with which nostalgia is so adorably imbibed in each frame of the film. So much to hook on to, so much to wonder about.

Here’s a thought experiment that I have engaged in for the last hour or so…what if it wasn’t Katrina Kaif and Vijay Sethupati playing the leads? Ooooof…what a long, long way has Ms Kaif come. To even pick up a role as a mother of a 5-6-year-old is a huge step up. And Vijay Sethupati has his own style of creating chemistry with the other characters he shares the screen with. In this case, whether it is Katrina Kaif or Vinay Pathak, Sanjay Kapoor or Radhika Apte, you feel sense his character’s relationships with theirs.

What if the film had someone other than Tinnu Anand, Vinay Pathak, and Sanjay Kapoor playing their roles? I have this question for every Radhika Apte role, so that is not a great question here. But, even with just 5-10 minutes on screen, Ashwini Kalsekar stays etched in memory. Who else can do that? End of thought experiment. Sure, we can have many contenders. But, I don’t want to see any of them. I want to see this film with the same cast, the same faces, the same dictions, the same mannerisms and delivery style.

4 hours since I walked out of the theatre and I am still wowed by the last 15 minutes of the film more than anything else.

Yes, you got that right, I want to see this film again. For what I missed. To pat my back for what I caught. To smirk at how the writing team gave up at a couple of places and incorporated an explanation so that we “get” it. But to also see if I “get” the significance of Orlem and Merry Widow, of the Japanese references, or of some of the music, or of the paintings on the wall and the books on the shelf, and so on and on and on. So much to grasp. But also, to experience the film without my mind and body being on the edge.

~ ~ ~

Ps. I saw the Hindi version of this film.

*I was unable to catch the name of the novel. French and Le Monte… is all I caught. Wikipedia and IMDb didn’t have the information until the time this review was written. Readers, if you do know, please leave a comment. Thank you in advance.

- meeta, a part of the audience

30 reviewers(?) - 23 yays 7 so-so 0 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, by Abhay, Bollywood Life : ...Watch it for Vijay Sethupathi's impeccable performance, and to experience what a revelation Katrina Kaif is as an actress. Sriram Raghavan beautifully brings out the thrill with the plot and narrative without resorting to visual elements used to achieve the same in most movies. Watch Merry Christmas for the artful storytelling that it promises.... full review

Thumbs up, by Angel Rani, Deccan Herald : ...'Merry Christmas' may not be as dark as 'Andhadhun', one of Raghavan's finest works. But then, the carols here are not about care and compassion alone. You see, sometimes violence is better than sacrifice. Read more at: full review

Thumbs up, by Abhimanyu Mathur, DNA : ...And yet, Merry Christmas suffers in its final act. The climax, the most important part of any thriller, disappoints. It is underwhelming to say the least. Raghavan does pull a rug from under your feet in his signature style but you feel a little cheated having rooted for the story to go one way. In the end, it is the filmmaker’s choice but the end does leave you slightly unsatisfied. As I said in the beginning, it is a delicious main course. I just wish the dessert was too.... full review

Thumbs up, by Rahul Desai, Film Companion : ...After all, good films make us hold our breath while simultaneously taking our breath away. But the great ones simply allow us to exhale.... full review

Thumbs up, by Pratyush Parasuraman, Film Companion : ...Sriram Raghavan’s cinema is one of wicked sincerity — it is so full of love for cinema (even the t-shirts that Raghavan is seen sporting, posters of films he loves) in a way that never grates, because its sincerity is expressed through the language of the most serrated genre, that of black comedy.... full review

Thumbs up, by Devesh Sharma, Filmfare : ...It's a noir film but unlike noir films, besides the darkness of the soul, it also showcases the triumph of human spirit and compassion – something that's intrinsic to Christmas. It's a dark comedy that will make you smile and scratch your head at the same time.... full review

Thumbs up, by Lachmi Deb Roy, FirstPost : ...Maria (Katrina Kaif) plays the role of a woman stuck in an unhappy marriage who is seen in a restaurant with her daughter, Annie. She happens to meet Albert (Vijay Sethupathi). Though they are strangers to each other, they connect over unusual circumstances. The movie is sure to make you feel nostalgic, especially for all Bombay lovers, especially the Regal cinema hall, the lanes of Colaba and old houses with beautiful architecture. What makes the movie all the more attractive is the unhurried pace. Merry Christmas is undoubtedly a rare treat.... full review

Thumbs up, by Rohit Bhatnagar, Free Press Journal : ...Vijay, an unconventional performer is glorious in his ability to act. He resonates perfectly with the face of a common man. Katrina does her part fairly well but raises questions a bit about being Raghavan’s leading lady. Sanjay Kapoor, although, has less screen time but is pleasant on screen. Radhika Apte is merely there for two scenes, but again monotonous. Vinay Pathak is noticeable, but it’s obvious, isn’t it?... full review

Thumbs up, : ...Sriram Raghavan is no stranger to thrillers, with every one of his films belonging to the noir genre. Right from his debut film, Ek Hasina Thi, he has delivered multiple hits from the genre in Johhny Gaddaar and Badlapur. But the movie that Merry Christmas is styled after, which also happens to Raghavan's most successful film, is... full review

Thumbs up, by Nitin Jain, : ...Sriram Raghavan continues his winning streak on the lines of his last directorial ‘Andhadhun’ being so much appreciated that it was remade in various regional languages. For the movie buffs who binge on suspenseful dramas, this one is absolutely unmissable.... full review

Thumbs up, by Monika Rawal Kukreja, Hindustan Times : ...Watch this Vijay Sethupathi and Katrina Kaif-starrer to appreciate good cinema, brilliant writing and enjoy an engaging watch that keep you on the edge on your seat, but you won't really jump out of it on any big reveal or the climax. Yet, it's Sriram Raghavan's cinematic world, and is a must watch, even if for one time.... full review

Thumbs up, by Tushar P. Joshi, india today : ...‘Merry Christmas’ is a terrific start to 2024 and a welcome break from the tailor-made cinema that feels repetitive. Vijay Sethupathi and Katrina Kaif’s pairing is the ace of spade that makes the film a sure-shot winner.... full review

Thumbs up, by Umesh Punwani, koimoi : ...All said and done, Merry Christmas is one of those rare films you can watch at any time, anywhere & you won’t regret it. It’s a film with a very long shelf life – a rarity these days.... full review

Thumbs up, by Mayank Shekhar, MiD DAY : ...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!... full review

Thumbs up, by Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV : ...Intriguing, stimulating, gripping and gently challenging, Merry Christmas is everything you would want a thriller to be. It bewitches even when it baffles.... full review

Thumbs up, by Avinash Lohana, Pinkvilla : ...Sriram Raghavan’s Katrina Kaif and Vijay Sethupathi led Merry Christmas has thrill and love at almost the right places. It isn’t perfect, but then what is. Go watch the film. I would have given the film three stars, but I am adding another half just for the electrifying background score.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sukanya Verma, Rediff : ...Don't miss the beginning, Badlapur's unforgettable tagline, is as good as a commandment in Sriram Raghavan’s book. Merry Christmas opens with a question first asked by John Lennon in his anti-Vietnam war protest song, Happy Xmas (War is Over). 'So this is Christmas and what have you done?' The answer, my friend, lies in a breathtaking climax that will have you sighing like you've never sighed in a Sriram Raghavan movie before and playing Antonio Vivaldi's Winter in a loop.... full review

Thumbs up, by UDITA JHUNJHUNWALA, : ...The 144-minute film is steeped in Hitchcockian tones and a 1980s Hindi movie palate (filmed by Madhu Neelakandan). Raghavan leaves little hints and sly clues along the way for the observant viewer to pick up on. Though not as wicked or surprising as Andhadhun, Merry Christmas has intrigue, is punctuated with black humour and is held together by the USP of Sethupathi and Kaif cast together as well asRaghavan’s signature crafting.... full review

Thumbs up, by Anuj Kumar, The Hindu : ...However, after a point, the noir suffers from translation blues. Some parts come truly alive, others fall in the gaps that exist between the manuscript and the motion picture. The crime and the big reveal described in the novel are difficult to visually adapt on screen and one has to give the benefit of the doubt (or is it reputation?) to Raghavan to believe in the stagy enactment of the climax that hangs like a postscript.... full review

Thumbs up, by Pratikshya Mishra, The Quint : ...a... full review

Thumbs up, by Dhaval Roy, Times of India : ...Although relatively less ominous compared to films in the genre or the director’s previous works, catch this one for the wicked plot and the surprises. You’d have a merry time!... full review

Thumbs up, by Roopa Radhakrishnan, Times of India : ...In a scene in the film, one character tells another that there’s no point in watching a movie without popcorn. Similarly, there’s no point in watching a Sriram Raghavan movie without expecting sporadic flashbacks, film references, completely out-there characters, and an edge-of-the-seat experience. All of this is also applicable for Merry Christmas, but in a quieter and lighter fashion.... full review

So-So, by Murtuza Iqbal, Filmi Beat : ...Overall, Merry Christmas might not be interesting and funny like Andhadhun, but it's not a bad film. It has a Sriram Raghavan touch in it and of course, watch it for Katrina and Vijay's amazing performance.... full review

So-So, by Baradwaj Rangan, : ...Merry Christmas is easier to admire than enjoy, and at least for me, it’s an intriguing minor work from a major filmmaker.. Read more at: full review

So-So, by Aseem Sharma, India TV : ...As mentioned above, Merry Christmas is slow in the first half and it takes time for the storyline to get aligned with the audience's attention. Things pick up just 2 minutes before the interval and the second half is good to go. If you are a murder mystery fan, then you might enjoy the slow build in the first half. However, when it comes to wholesome entertainment, one will surely find it a bit lengthy.... full review

So-So, by lekha Menon, Khaleej Times : ...There are so many things to like about Merry Christmas even if the parts never add up to a satisfying whole. If you have loads of patience, celebrate this festive murder mystery at the cinemas.... full review

So-So, by Sameer Ahire, Movie Talkies : ...On technical fronts, Merry Christmas lacks a few things here and there. That impact of the background score is missing. Raghavan uses some comical chillifying songs to make you feel nostalgic, but I don’t think anything will stay with you after the film. Nazar Teri Toofan and Raat Akeli songs only make it longer. If you feel bored while watching the film, then blame the songs and slow screenplay for it.... full review

So-So, by Pooja Birala Jaiswal, The Week : ...Actors Radhika Apte, Sanjay Kapoor, Tinnu Anand, Vinay Pathak, Ashwini Kalsekar and Pratima Kazmi lend great support to this dark, murder mystery universe. Given that I went for this Raghavan film expecting an overtly mind-boggling climax, which could make me jump out of my seat, I was a bit disappointed. It's out-of-the-box and experimental, but not overwhelming.... full review

So-So, by Sonal Pandya, Times Now : ...Merry Christmas picks up speed in the last 20 minutes where there's plenty of nervous conflict and edginess to be resolved. Sriram Raghavan's film had the right take on the perfect crime, but does it exist?... full review

Twitter reviews for this movie are not available.

2 readers - 1 yays 0 so-so 1 nays

Yay! Thumbs Up, by Raj : Watch it for ART of Movie making

Nay! Thumbs Down, by raaj : Waste of time and money

This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: A murder
  • Language: Clean
  • Nudity & Sexual content: None
  • Concept: Murder mystery, suspense thriller
  • General Look and Feel: Noir set in Bombay from the 70s-90s.

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

Lead Actors:
Character Artists:
Music Director:

Comments (3)

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I think it's this book. Caution for readers: plot summary included


Mediocre film meetu
I didn't expect this from you


Dear Meetu, nice review. Some directors MOVIE MAKING so much and Sriram is one of those. But one must be careful not to over-indulge in the process. Sriram maintains a RIGHT BALANCE to stay true to the book - "the Bird In the Cage" also made into a movie.

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