Katrina Kaif and Vijay Sethupathi during rehearsals for 'Merry Christmas'
Katrina Kaif and Vijay Sethupathi during rehearsals for 'Merry Christmas' Image Credit: instagram.com/katrinakaif

Two strangers meet on a fateful Christmas Eve. A night of delirious romance turns into a nightmare.

Director Sriram Raghavan’s latest 'Merry Christmas' opens with a scene where two sets of mixer grinders juxtaposed in two frames show two recipes: a few tablets being grounded to a powder and the other a mix of red chillies and a lentil mixed to make batter for dosa.

Interestingly, it’s Christmas eve and the city of Mumbai (that was then Bombay) is seen celebrating Christmas Eve. The spirit of Christmas and the streets lit up give us the euphoria building up.

In the mid of all this, Albert (Vijay Sethupathia), an architect who works in Dubai, is returning home after seven long years. He could not make it to his mother's funeral. A neighbour (Tinu Anand) offers him a bottle of homemade wine and shares his bonding with Albert’s mother while he is away.

Albert meets Maria (Katrina Kaif) don’t really meet, not in the slightest romantic way, in fact, as Albert looks at Maria with a small girl (Annie) and a teddy bear in her arms, he offers to help. As they wander the city enjoying the festivities, Maria’s rather sad face begins to light up and Albert’s Christmas begins to look merry. Maria then takes Annie to a movie Pinocchio where she finds Albert seated too.

A friendly chat later, the three of them return to Maria’s flat Rose apartment where she also runs a bakery named Jupiter Bakery. All this while, their conversations reveal just the bare minimum. Maria invites Albert to her home and easy banter follows between the two. After putting Annie to bed, Maria decides to go out again with Albert and leaves a note for her husband, Jerome (Luke Kenny) that she would be back in an hour.

What follows is a shocking body of Jerome plonked on a single sofa seater with a gunshot wound on his chest.

Taking immediate charge of the situation, Albert tries calling up the police but stops wondering how he would explain the sudden body when they had gone out for an hour.

Soon, what seemed like a happy festival turns menacingly evil.

Director Sriram Raghavan’s mastery of several twists and turns come to the fore as we see characters and a dead body making the happy ambience turn ominous. There are other people who start joining in -- Sanjay Kapoor tries to help out an unconscious Maria at a church and all along believes he could have a lucky day with a pretty lady.

The plot gets complicated as mystery shrouds the disappearance of Jerome’s body, Albert’s quiet demeanour, Sanjay’s wily ways as inspector Vinay Pathak and his assistant Pratima Kazmi begin to find holes in the story that both Maria and Albert narrate.

The nearly two hour long film reminds us of the vintage Hitchcock and his unsurpassable tone. Not saying much and yet revealing much for all those who wish to see what is not easily seen, Raghavana takes off from his much acclaimed 'Andhadhun' starring Tabu, and leaves us with intrigue, mystery and questions that one would keep wondering about. If Madhu Neelakandan’s camera work beautifully captures the old Bombay of the 80s, it’s Pritam’s musical score and Daniel B George’s background music that become other significant characters in the narrative. George relies heavily on western classical influences and gives us unique pieces of music that gel so well with dramatic scenes.

From among the cast, Katrina is a revelation. Her quiet moves and consciously deadpan expressions add enigmatic to Maria. Vijay Sethupati is perfectly cast as a murderer, who has spent seven years behind prison for murdering his wife (Rashika Apte). Sanjay Kapoor as an opportunist man is good too.