Mona Darling review: Convoluted and pretentious
Contrived and artificially cloying experiences of recent times
Friday 24 February 2017
Anshuman Jha, Divya Menon, Suzanna Mukherjee, Sanjay Suri
The title, Mona Darling, conjures a very sleazy image. But the film is far from sleaze. Designed as a scare film and trying to leave an indelible mark on the audience, director Shashi Sudigala, like an enthusiastic kid, has used all the tricks of the trade in an attempt to create a masterpiece.
Mona Darling is one of the most contrived and artificially cloying experiences of recent times. To call it manipulative would be inaccurate; it has an ambition to manipulate, but fails miserably.
The film begins with a dire introductory scene which establishes the campus of the Indian School of Technology, where boys are desperate to have some fun. A skimpily clad girl runs around the campus till she reaches her boyfriend's room, entices him and, mysteriously, the boyfriend as also a few other boys are murdered.
The next we know is that Mona (Suzanna Mukherjee), a victim of social media harassment, is missing. Her friend Sarah (Divya Menon), with the aid of her classmate Wiki (Anshuman Jha), is trying to locate her. They soon realise that there is a direct link between Mona and the dead boys, that is, they all had accepted a social networking request from Mona, minutes before their death. But when they probe further, they hit upon a more sinister and terrifying truth.
With sound technical and production values, the film begins with promise. But it soon disintegrates into unbearable trash.
The plot, narrated in a nonlinear manner, is deeply flawed and the convoluted screenplay makes it worse. You don't relate to the characters. They are all seen as broad, desperate, perfunctory caricatures. They are serious, but not touching. There is no truth in them. They don't even work as parodies.
There is a senselessness here that seems almost intentional, as if the director plotted everything to weave in a mysterious, entertaining tale. It is an insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it. The writing is definitely pathetic.
Though the film is poorly made, the director is a gifted filmmaker. He offers an eerie, atmospheric film with a few effective jump scares that startle you -- be it in the library, or during the investigation.
He has also managed to draw effective performances from his actors. All of them deliver with enthusiasm, except for Sanjay Suri, who plays the Dean of the Institute and is lacklustre.
With moderate production values, Mona Darling is a technically sound film. The production design by Tariq Umar Khan, camera work by Sapan Narula, sound design along with the background score are all brilliant.
The editing, though crisp, does not establish the time for the sequence of events. This is also one of the reasons why the film fails.
Overall, Mona Darling may appeal to you only if you like a pretentiously convoluted film.
Mona Darling review: 1 star