Merry Christmas, directed by Sriram Raghavan, is a beautiful film, especially if you like slow-paced yet engaging movies like the Before trilogy. Merry Christmas uniquely blends the romantic drama of Wong Kar Wai with the suspenseful elements of Hitchcockian noir thrillers.
In essence, it’s reminiscent of Thiyagarajan Kumararaja’s Ninaivo Oru Paravai, which seamlessly fuses these two elements. It’s not surprising that the director, Sriram Raghavan, mentioned Thiyagarajan Kumararaja as an inspiration.
Retro Charm & A Mood For Love, Sprinkled with Witty Black Humour
Merry Christmas begins with a note saying, ‘When Mumbai was known as Bombay.‘ The film takes place in Bombay during the 1970s and makes you feel nostalgic.
The colours, music, and songs in the film are sync with the era and make the experience even better. The story revolves around Albert (Vijay Sethupathi) and Maria (Katrina Kaif). Two souls wandering in the neon-lit lanes of Bombay, whose lives intersect in a serendipitous Christmas encounter.
It’s more of like a O.Henry short story; whatever you are reading and imagining in the first half will get a 180 degree shift in the later half.
The movie’s pacing is deliberate, slowly building up to a climax. If you are expecting a thriller like Andhadhun, you may get disappointed. Merry Christmas is a cute black comedy.
Perfect Blend of On Screen & Off Screen Efforts
Vijay Sethupathi is outstanding in his role. Watching him dance with Katrina Kaif, who is famous for dance numbers like ‘Chikni Chameli,’ is a treat for the fans of both. You can’t help but be drawn in by Vijay’s cute dance performance.
The film’s homage to the bygone era of Bollywood, Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’, background score by Daniel B George, all these adds layers to its storytelling, makes ‘Merry Christmas’ more than just a movie set in the 70s. It feels like it truly belongs to that time.
Cinematographer Madhu Neelakandan deserves a special applause for meticulously capturing the essence of the setting, focusing on even the smallest details. The vibrant red-blue-green colour palette that fills each frame is so catchy and sync with the moments. However, the close-up shots of Katrina Kaif are a bit of a letdown. Personally, I felt that these moments were jarring, as Katrina seemed to struggle with conveying the subtlety of emotions required for these shots.
Sriram Raghavan’s Yadhoom: A Merry Christmas with Self-Discovery
Sriram Raghavan’s Merry Christmas not only shines with performances but also with its intriguing scripting.The movie looks at ‘Yadhoom’ moments – those instances of clarity and realisation of one’s true purpose in life.
Tamil veteran actor Rajesh plays a kind man who took care of Albert’s mother, Celine, before she passed away. He also looks after her apartment. He gives Albert a bottle of homemade wine called Yadhoom.
But what does Yadhoom mean?
Rajesh explains it like this:
‘We spend our lives working, raising families, and doing other things. But we’re all waiting for a special moment. When that moment comes, it’s like you suddenly know what you’re supposed to do. That’s what Yadhoom is about.‘Merry Christmas (2024)
Sriram Raghavan carefully places his characters right before the Yadhoom moments in their lives. He shows us how they find out who they are and what they want.
Before he starts his night adventure Albert reads a quote “Night is Darkest Before The Dawn”, this blend with the eastern version of Yadhoom philosophy where challenges and sufferings lead to self-realisation. Hope you have watched Lion King which beautifully portrayed this philosophy.
Albert’s return to Bombay is more than just a trip. It’s a journey through his past and into his own heart. The idea of Yadhoom is key in the movie.
The characters of Albert and Maria are skillfully crafted to evolve towards this Yadhoom realisation. Their interactions, laden with yearning and a sense of lost time, gradually lead them to their respective Yadhoom moments.
Complementary Yadhoom Arcs
The characters, Albert and Maria, are created in a way that Maria is skeptical, fragile and is more sure of her motivations than her decisions, while Albert is almost too careful, yet easy going.
There is a dialogue from Albert: “I’ve left a lot of things unfinished in life, but never a bottle of chilled beer,”. These complementary arcs in their behaviour is what makes them complete in the end while talking about the agony of remorse and awaiting.
Sriram Raghavan’s storytelling is subtle, he cleverly uses the festive atmosphere of Christmas to create a striking contrast with the deep self-reflection experienced by his characters. This contrast serves to highlight their personal growth. Initially burdened by their pasts and uncertainties, Albert and Maria evolve throughout the film. They move from being individuals weighed down by life’s complexities to people who gradually come to embrace the concept of Yadhoom.
Yadhoom, Albert and Maria: Philosophical Layers in Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas is more than just a black comedy on screen. It introduces us to the deep ideas of some philosophies.
For example, the film reflects existentialism. This is the belief that people must create their own meaning in a world that doesn’t have a clear purpose. Albert and Maria are characters struggling to escape their past and the truth, and in the end, they use what happens in their lives to make their own meaning and purpose for their present.
The film also shows ideas from Stoicism. Stoicism consists of wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation.
This ancient philosophy teaches that people should accept what happens in their lives and use these experiences to grow and become better people. We see this in how Albert and Maria deal with their past and how they change to find their purpose. In the climax there is a shot where Maria burns a Teddy and keeps two fish in the flush tanks. The way that night ends was narrated beautifully by Sriram and captured elegantly. by Madhu Neelakantan.
Even there is an instance were, Albert talks about Violence, he says: “Violence is better than the sufferings from non-violence”. This reminds me of Dharma philosophy.
In summary, ‘Merry Christmas’ is not just a black comedy thriller but a philosophical journey that resonates with the heart and mind. Echoing the essence of trendy Ikigai, Existentialism, Dharma,and all other such philosophies, Merry Christmas inspires us to explore our own paths, encouraging us to find our unique place in the world.