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Mona Darling Review: A Uniquely Strange Mess

This ‘social media thriller’ traces the mystery of four horny college boys found dead after accepting a particular Facebook friend request

Rahul DesaiRahul Desai

February 24, 2017 | 06:02 AM

FC Rating

★★★★★
film-companion
Mona Darling Review: A Uniquely Strange Mess

Director: Shashi Sudigala

Cast: Anshuman Jha, Divya Menon, Suzanna Mukherjee, Sanjay Suri

It’s rare that I sit through an entire film without, for a single minute, really knowing – or even bothering to understand – what it’s about. And I don’t mean this in a clever, sleight-of-hand “Tricked you!” way. Perhaps that is the nature of the beast, and the inherent goal of thrillers and murder mysteries. But how often do you sit through the final revelation scene, defeated, waving a white flag, not feeling its eureka-ness, not caring about who the killer is, because the film leading up to it felt like an indulgent group of incoherent, half-baked montages designed to make as little sense as possible? 

Marketed as India’s first “social media thriller,” Mona Darling tries too hard to be digital in a hoodie-and-loafers way

The dubiously titled Mona Darling is a lot of things without really amounting to anything. The plot is fairly slasher-flick to begin with: four horny college boys are found dead after accepting a particular Facebook friend request. It belongs to an attractive girl named Mona (Suzanna Mukherjee), who is missing, and whose intimate pictures they had once plastered all over a smutty, custom-made account. Her best friend (Divya Menon) wants to find her, and some very simplistic cops want to find the murderer. There’s also the college dean (Sanjay Suri), the quintessential nice man and gentle science geek. 

The friend enlists the help of a resident cyber nerd (Anshuman Jha), who does the whole eccentric-hacker thing – but comes across as more Scooby Doo than Sherlock, thanks to the plot’s stilted lack of direction. By scoring his bouts of frenzied typing to various renditions of Grieg’s ‘In The Hall of the Mountain King’, the makers insist that he is a mind-faster-than-computer stylish genius. There are barely connected flashbacks of Mona’s gradual descent into gloom, her seedy ex-boyfriend (who has no idea what to do with his hands when he speaks on screen) and other guys whose ideas of sleaze-face is to put on their best Delhi accents. 

Marketed as India’s first “social media thriller,” Mona Darling tries too hard to be digital in a hoodie-and-loafers way. And it keeps trying. It also has a severe detective-drama hangover, ill advisedly combined with the distracting jumpiness of a campus spook-fest. It isn’t bad in an obvious way, just strangely bad in an over-smart, awfully indulgent way. And for a film pivoting on its tech-savvy identity, the craft desperately lacks to the point of jarring dubbing issues, amateur sound mixing and absurdly unclear editing. 

The dubiously titled Mona Darling is a lot of things without really amounting to anything. The plot is fairly slasher-flick to begin with: four horny college boys are found dead after accepting a particular Facebook friend request

Perhaps the issue is one that so many inexperienced storytellers fall prey to: when you spend too much time writing your narrative, you begin to make the film according to preconceived notions of the fluid story in your head, forgetting to fill in the basic gaps for viewers. It’s like not noticing the typos in your own sentence, because you’ve already thought it before writing it on the page. Or just hurriedly scribbling down keywords to suggest an entire sentence. This film is like a bunch of such keywords. As a result, everything feels like a jump cut to strangers. While it may make perfect sense to the excitable creators – because they’ve already lived the plot in their heads – we’re left twiddling our thumbs, wondering if this is what they mean by (unintentional) abstract art. Consistently delineating, distant and disengaging.