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Director Vasan Bala’s neo-noir black comedy ‘Monica, O My Darling’, starring Radhika Apte, Huma Qureshi, Rajkummar Rao and Sikander Kher, will premiere on November 11 on Netflix. Gulf News caught up with one third of its talented cast and crew — director Vasan Bala, Apte and Rao — to find out about their wicked black comedy. Here’s what you should know about it:
Image Credit: IMdB
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All the characters in ‘Monica, O My Darling’ are undoubtedly twisted, warped and unapologetically diabolical. But that’s in the DNA of any compelling classic noir, believes its director Bala. “Any classic noir works if a seemingly decent citizen spiral down and that’s where a noir arc comes in and that man reaches a point of no return. This is what happens to the characters in our film as well. They seem to be doing the right things, but then something hits you and you keep going with the flow and you before you realise it, you have gone to the other dark side. These are classic noir tropes and we have that too,” said Bala in a joint Zoom interview with Gulf News.
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‘Monica, O My Darling’ follows the lives of Jayant Arkhedkar (Rajkummar Rao), a smart and slick robotics expert who’s strategic plans to wed into a wealthy family get derailed when his clandestine affair with his peer Monica Machado (Huma Qureshi) takes a nasty turn. The black comedy, powered by a bunch of morally bankrupt players, is couched in layers of diabolical twists and turns. “‘Monica, O My Darling’ is truly a director’s film. Pretty much everything was in the script. All we had to do as actor was to be honest to the given material and do your own homework. Plus, we had to trust the process,” said Rao in the same interview. Both Rao and Apte claim they just had to trust their director and their role didn’t take any physical toll on them. “The character may come across as dark and heavy, but it’s not,” said Rao.
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Radhika Apte plays a cop with a cool swagger, usually reserved for male heroes in Bollywood. She’s cheeky and irreverent. Apte said that initially she was “under-confident” about pulling off the role. “I am so grateful to Vasan for that! Nobody would come to me with a part like that usually. And I just loved the script and honestly I wanted to work with Vasan and Raj for the longest time and imagine I get to work with them together,” said Apte.
Image Credit: IMdB
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Actor Sikandar Kher, the son of Anupam and Kirron Kher, also plays a crucial role in this zany film. He plays the troubled son of wealthy tech company mogul. Like Apte and Rao, Kher was thrilled to be a part of a tricky genre like a neo-noir crime caper. “You never know if a film will land or not! In films and acting, there’s a lot of heartbreak involved … But when such a role and film comes along for an actor, you just grab the opportunity with both hands,” said Kher in a separate interview. His character is complicated. “He comes from a broken family … so there’s an interesting backstory to his actions,” Kher added.
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Radhika Apte and Rao have been each other’s biggest cheerleaders. Both are self-made and made their presence known through merit alone. Unlike star-kids, they didn’t have influential actor-parents pulling strings to give their careers a boost. Their career trajectory is on an upward climb. Apte describes Rao as one of the most collaborative and generous actors to work with. “We were reacting to each other and therefore every take was organic and based on how the other person was doing. We were watching each other and performing and that made it so much fun,” said Apte.
Image Credit: Instagram/Radhika Apte
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Director Vasan Bala, whose credits including ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’ and ‘Ray’, claims the trick to making a neo-noir crime caper was never to treat it like you are making a comic film. Black comedies often deal with sinister and morbid topics like murder, deceit, greed and lust with almost a playful hand. “We all had a chat about the world and the characters we were creating and the best part is that my actors were more than capable of nailing their parts … They actors are good enough to understand that they don’t have to play their characters as a joke. You have to live in the moment so that the audience can laugh at their suffering,” said Bala.
Image Credit: Netflix
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‘Monica, O My Darling’ is based on a Japanese novel by Keigo Higashino, whose English title is ‘Brutus’ Heart’. “The book had the Japanese in complete bonkers kind of situations,” said Bala. And none of the characters who do some despicable acts through the film have any kind of sturdy backstory on why they are evil. “What’s courageous and bold about these characters in this film is that they don’t have any emotional crutches to justify their actions. There’s no mother or a sad sister lurking in the shadows … The onus is on the characters and their decisions … We were all on the same page there,” said Bala.
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Greed is one of the many underlying subtexts of this quirky film. So is greed good? Both Rao and Apte believe that a bit of greed doesn’t harm anyone. “I am a greedy actor. I want all the best parts of the world and I want to work with all the best makers … Greed is good if you can do it without harming anyone … You should not use other people to make your dream come true,” said Rao
Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News
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Bala is mighty impressed with his team of this film. “These are the actors who ask about the script and how they can make their characters more despicable … I love that they understood the spirit of the film,” said Bala. Actress Akansha Ranjan Kapoor as the flighty, clueless heiress is spot-on. She brings her A-game into playing a wealthy and privileged princess. She's both endearing and annoying - as it's supposed to be.
Image Credit: Netflix
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'Monica, O My Darling' will premiere on Netflix on November 11.
Image Credit: IMdB