Director: Shirish Kunder
Cast: Jacqueline Fernandez, Manoj Bajpayee, Mohit Raina
There’s an entire genre of mainstream Hindi filmmaking that disguises artistic incompetence as “ode to campy ‘70s Bollywood”. If we laugh at how hopelessly awful the movie is, the makers tend to go, “But that’s the point!”. If the acting is mercilessly grating and over-the-top, and the sets are lit more like the cartoon Dexter’s Laboratory than the TV series Dexter, and the plot is a drunken joke camouflaged as playful drama, and the leads have ‘easy paycheck’ written all over their powdered foreheads, and the climax involves an eccentric killer swan-dancing to classical music while simultaneously cutting open the stomach of a pregnant girl in a disco-lit basement, the director points out, “Exactly, that’s my tribute to so-bad-it’s-good thrillers of yore!”.
If we wonder how exactly a movie so terrible got greenlit and wormed its way onto our streaming screens during a global pandemic, the writers tend to surmise, “But you need the massy escapism!”. Fourteen years after testing that thin kitschy line between parody and disaster with Jaan-E-Mann, editor-director Shirish Kunder turns that line into a suicidal rope with his third feature film, Mrs. Serial Killer.
Mrs. Serial Killer stars Jacqueline Fernandez as Sona Mukherjee, a character who seems to be perpetually frustrated with the actress playing her. The ditzy premise revolves around a ditzy and well-dressed Sona trying to murder a woman after her genius lawyer (who lives in a mansion that looks like a public school with an affinity for purple mad-scientist paraphernalia) advises her that the only way to free her framed husband from prison is by proving that a small-town serial killer who preys on unmarried pregnant girls and aborts their unborn foetuses is still on the loose. Naturally, the “immoral” victim Sona chooses is an emo-punkish student with tattoos, purple hair, nose rings, a foul-mouthed vocabulary and a black belt in taekwondo. At one point, the chase culminates in a surreally moonlit lavender field with magic dust and Sona screaming “you fucking bitch” while she’s suspended in mid-air.
Bajpayee, like any great actor for whom there is a Satyamev Jayate for every Aligarh and a Mrs. Serial Killer for every The Family Man, seems to have a blast in bad movies – almost as if he slyly wants to check how far he can push the ham-scales before the mortified director asks him to tone it down.
In case you’re wondering, Sona steals the list of pregnant girls from a fertility clinic. Any resemblance to Breathe – an Amazon series starring R. Madhavan as a doting father who sets out to kill innocent organ recipients so that his terminally ill son is bumped up the list – ends as soon as Manoj Bajpayee is introduced as the framed husband, Dr. Mrityunjoy Mukherjee, a man who acts like the spirit of Aks is trapped on the sets of The Xposé. “Stop calling me Joy, I’m not a fucking ice cream, call me Mrityu!” the Bengali man exclaims, but not before we notice that his own fertility clinic has blown-up portraits of a scantily-clad Sona all over the reception walls. And here I keep wondering how weird it must feel for shy husbands to provide their “samples” in a private roomful of Penthouse magazines.
Bajpayee, like any great actor for whom there is a Satyamev Jayate for every Aligarh and a Mrs. Serial Killer for every The Family Man, seems to have a blast in bad movies – almost as if he slyly wants to check how far he can push the ham-scales before the mortified director asks him to tone it down. But much to his visible shock, director Shirish Kunder never stops him. He looks like he’s always waiting for Kunder to call “Cut!” and burst out into chuckles…but that never happens. As a result, we get a performance that zooms past the so-bad-it’s-good barrier into so-bad-it’s-delusional territory. It cannot be unseen. Jacqueline, whose last four acting credits read Drive, Race 3, Baaghi 2, and Judwaa 2, is actually overpowered by Bajpayee, who in turn is overpowered by Kunder’s original score that features a background theme uncannily similar to the tune of Roshni Se from Asoka.
To sum up this abominable experience, much of this Netflix original left me so stunned with its disdain for the concept of moving pictures that it felt like another reality check in a year full of unsavoury reality checks. A pickup line such as “A male gynecologist is like a bald hair stylist” is never a good omen.