January 14, 2024

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Merry Christmas: Katrina Kaif-Vijay Sethupathi in killer form in Sriram Raghavan’s Before Sunrise with a murder | Bollywood News

4 min read

(No spoilers. Only murder)

If Katrina Kaif walks up to you and cries about her crisis, you will believe her. She is gifted with a face that is painted with innocence. For when she cries, Katrina’s eyes–which become amusingly tinier as her cheeks lift and tears start to form- ask for absolute submission. But in Merry Christmas, her sincerity is blended in the whacky mixer grinder of Sriram Raghavan, in whose world you are innocent only when someone else is proven guilty. The thriller cooks up a question: Will you trust what you see, even if Katrina is asking you to?

Merry Christmas is Sriram Raghavan turning truly, deeply romantic. It plays with an unlikely pairing, Katrina and Vijay Sethupathi, places them in tense situations and takes a seat with the viewers to see what happens when their worlds collide on a lonely Christmas night. And collide they do, for the result is simply electric. Madhu Neelakandan’s camera follows what the two are up to (and they are up to a lot of things) as they discover, re-discover, cover, un-cover, dance and tremble. The night is darkest before the dawn– just the perfect time for lovers and murders.

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Merry Christmas is a delicious Sriram Raghavan film, which packs in many a timely placed surprise, one of the biggest being how it utilises Katrina Kaif. No filmmaker, apart from Kabir Khan, Ali Abbas Zafar and Anand L Raii, has been able to extract what she has to offer. One of Katrina’s strongest criticisms has always been that she is a self-conscious actor, that there is always a wall she can’t break in front of the camera.

Festive offer

Yet, Katrina has often (and slowly, steadily) tried to break it, especially with films like the Tiger franchise, Zero and her drama Bharat. In Merry Christmas, Katrina channels a remarkable intrigue that makes one play a table tennis match in their heads. Is she, is she not; why does she, why can’t she not. Her performance remains consistently intriguing. This is Katrina not acting with a wall in front of her, but deliberately building one.

This is also an incredibly smart direction, which marries the beauty of Katrina with the mystery of Katrina. The actor looks angelic, and Sriram keeps his cards so close to his chest that it steadily builds the enigma around the woman, who has enchanted Vijay Sethupathi’s character. The thriller, for a large part, plays out like a vintage romance. Two strangers meet in Mumbai–when it was Bombay–and remain by each other’s side for the night. It is what Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise would have been, with a teddy bear and a murder.

Merry Christmas sees Katrina taking on the biggest challenge of her career, and Raghavan doesn’t hold back either. The film throws at her curveballs– there is an almost single-take dance sequence that oscillates between playful and mysterious, tight close ups of her crying, terrified and puzzled. Katrina takes it all head on and matches every step to create what is essentially one of the strongest points about the film– a genuine sexual tension seen on screen after a long time.

Katrina, with her mystique and Vijay with his lazy charm, mount a spectacular dance of passion which paints the city red, a colour of love, lust, Christmas and blood. Sriram Raghavan uses the two distinct actors to the best of their abilities. Vijay makes every single (even fairly normal) line fly while Katrina does a lot of talking with her eyes. There is also an adorable physicality that she brings to the part. The best way to describe would be to remind one of what she did in Anurag Basu’s Jagga Jasoos. The body language is wonderfully puzzling, if it is goofy in some bits, it is remarkably assured in other. Everything is by design and Katrina gets the assignment right.

This interplay pays off, as the chemistry between the two actors simmers, till Sriram, in his quintessential style, starts to upturn the narrative. Merry Christmas, apart from following the beats of a classic Sriram Raghavan film of delicious noir and wicked humour, benefits greatly from what the actors create on screen– a truly captivating chemistry that keeps it all glued. A lot happens in the film, on a lonely Christmas night. Ask Katrina Kaif and Vijay Sethupathi–only lovers in the building.

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