Monster Movie Review: Crude, crass, energy-draining beast
In a pre-release promo video, Mohanlal said the screenplay of Monster is both hero and villain. Well, having seen the movie, I can say I understood half of it
There have been only a few occasions when I felt sorry for myself while sitting inside a movie theatre, and they all happened after I started a career in film journalism. When not writing about films, there is the option of avoiding them -- and safeguarding your mental health in the process; unfortunately, that's become near impossible now.
Cast: Mohanlal, Honey Rose, Lakshmi Manchu, Lena
There was a time when the terrible films of Mammootty and Mohanlal tormented me. Lately, though, the former seems to have grown more sensible with regard to his script choices. On the other hand, the latter seems to be going in the opposite direction, and he doesn't seem to care -- except when asking reviewers to learn about filmmaking before talking ill of a film? My question is this: If someone is so passionate about filmmaking or good cinema, why agree to do films like Monster, Aaraattu, Big Brother, and Neerali?
Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse than Aaraattu, here comes Monster, a creation of the same writer, Udayakrishna. I paused to reflect on which of the two is the worst, and my answer has to be Monster. I would've said Aaraattu considering it's longer than Monster, but the latter managed to inflict as much pain despite its relatively shorter runtime. And since I end up exhausted by the end of one of these films, it's also become quite a challenge to expend whatever energy I have left to write about it. I'll try.
Before the release of Monster, there were speculations about it containing zombies and vampires. There is no such thing. I don't know who started that rumour. Perhaps the makers themselves did it through one of their clandestine promotion teams -- you know, to create hype through negative publicity because that's actually a thing. That said, the film exhibits the traits of a vampire in that it sucks your energy instead of blood. I would've included the actors, too, but then I remembered that actors only do what the writer and director tell them to do.
Let me start with Mohanlal's 'Lucky Singh', yet another over-the-top investigator-in-disguise who feels like an extension of his character in the recent 12th Man. Of course, one can see that it's deliberate, but just because a character has to assume a different identity to mislead others, it doesn't mean we should endure everything thrown at us. In 12th Man, Jeethu Joseph was smart enough not to stretch the 'drunken guy' act beyond what was necessary. In Monster, however, Lucky Singh isn't a drunk, but he puts on the garb of an annoying chatterbox who makes every woman he meets uncomfortable. Let's remember that Mohanlal once did a wonderfully entertaining undercover movie called Olympian Antony Adam, where he got the job done without going overboard. Where did today's makers suddenly get the idea that the lamest of dialogues and jokes can entertain audiences? Don't they see that it's no longer working?
For some odd reason, writer Udayakrishna seems to think he is being clever by having Lucky Singh behave like he is participating in a wordplay competition. The effect is more annoying than astonishing. The early developments take a long time to simmer -- imagine an extreme version of that wallpaper scene from TP Balagopalan MA Only here, Lucky Singh isn't selling wallpapers, only his false identity.
I should admit the pre-interval development was a nice touch; it's effective at piquing one's curiosity. But everything starts to go haywire post-interval when more characters enter the picture, most of them faces you'd recognise in an AMMA event photograph. It gets to a point where you start wondering whether things got even more ridiculous when these characters started acting all 'serious' or when they used to be silly. There is a scene where Mohanlal is briefing his khaki-clad colleagues, who sport an expression that seems to say they are already aware of how ludicrous the entire script is but are somehow trying so hard to look serious. Looking at their 'attentive' faces, one would think Lucky Singh is telling them about some Illuminati conspiracy. And what about Lucky Singh showing up in a motorcade of black Mercedez Benzes flanked by sub-ordinates who look like they just got back after filming an Indian remake of Men in Black?
The atrocity attains its zenith when we learn the identity of the serial killers. One gets the feeling the makers have something against a particular community. In the pursuit of doing something 'different', the makers conjure a background story for the killers that is as unconvincing as it is insensitive. The writing is crass and devoid of grace that it leaves a sour aftertaste. Why make them look like stock villains? Was there no space for nuance or layers? Why ask them to talk and pose in a stereotypical way? What's with the amateurish music video-style visualisation?
Also, why name the film Monster? Yes, we get a mention of it through Lucky Singh's closing dialogue, but it is as senseless as everything else in the movie. There was a mention of 'monster' in Aaraattu too, and I don't get the obsession. Is there a UCU (Udayakrishna Cinematic Universe) in the making? I shudder at the thought.
In a pre-release promo video, Mohanlal said the film's screenplay is both hero and villain. Well, having seen the movie, I can say I understood half of it.