Mayank Shekhar's Review: Monica

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By Hindustan Times

Monica
Director: Sushen Bhatnagar
Actors: Divya Dutta, Ashutosh Rana
Rating: *

One MJ is a newspaper editor in this film. The reference, I suppose, is to Akbar. And not the king of pop with the same initials. Monica (Divya Dutta), a hot, hungry reporter, works under MJ. She also sleeps under a telecom minister to rise to the top of her profession. What that dizzy top means, we'll get to in a bit.

The minister and Monica have a kid together. Her husband, a failed, frustrated journo takes care of this child; drowns himself in alcohol; watches his wife get abused by the minister in his own house; dips pages of his book that no one will publish into an overflowing bathtub…. No one cares for this maimed man (Rajit Kapoor). He should've been central to this story.

A catty industrialist (Kittu Gidwani) is, instead. Her name's Pamela -- Pamelaji. Monica and Pamela, you see, sip on whisky together. Pammi aunty strokes Monica’s bare back as they tuck themselves into a satin bed cover, make love all night. Filmmakers here don’t believe in dull, subtle expressions. It’s New Delhi: the nation’s corrupt capital. Literally everyone’s in bed with the other, if not with Monica.

The first time the two leading ladies of the film, the sensuous lovers, had met, was at an "aalishan" (grand) party in Lucknow. Monica was Divya Duttacovering universities for a local newspaper then. By now, she is already a special correspondent. A special frikin’ correspondent, no less, from a "mamuli (ordinary) sub-reporter," the filmmakers suggest. They probably mean a cub reporter, or a sub-editor. But never mind that. Monica can now become associate editor if she listens to her boss, who has no control over what she publishes as lead stories and headlines in the paper he edits!

Filmies in Bombay share a common grouse against scribes. They find their lives misrepresented in the press. If this film is any indication of what journalism could be like, God save the news!

Anyway. You didn’t quite walk into a movie called Monica for its striking realism. You went in for the laughs. There’s plenty. And plenty else as the heroine sits around, for most of the flick, always partially clothed, with Classic Ultra Mild's between her fingers, a drink in hand, cellphone stuck to the ears, under a heavy bathroom shower (now that’s the water-proof cellphone we should all want; lost my third-rate one to a wet Holi this week. Damn).

You can tell, this is a B movie that was suddenly allowed better budgets later in its making. The picture is supposedly based on the mysterious murder of Indian Express journalist Shivani Bhatnagar in '99. It could even be inspired by death of poetess Madhumita Shukla, who was allegedly involved with a local don/minister in 2003. No One Killed Jessica on Jessica Lal case (this year). Hit. Check. Politics is pivotal to the plot. Raajeeti on state elections (last year). Hit. Check. This is how cheques get released for pictures like these. Everything else remains in the credit, or edit.

Heroine’s on the run. Minister, editor have sent out goons to hunt her down. She gets killed at a Lucknow apartment. Narrative goes back and forth. It’s hard to tell what’s going on. Courts hear the matter. Telecom minister, now about to become chief minister of Uttar Pradesh (Ashutosh Rana), attends hearings everyday.

The lawyer finally reveals the truth. He brings in a blackboard to the courtroom, draws three circles: "Media, Industry, Politics". At the intersection of this Venn diagram is Monica. If the three circles gang up, they’ll form one circle. Who would they have to eliminate? You got it. "Judge sahiba" is impressed. Murder mystery is solved. Who would not pay for this priceless education? I would.

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