Mrs Serial Killer
Director – Shirish Kunder
Cast – Jacqueline Fernandez, Manoj Bajpayee, Mohit Raina
Much before Mrs Serial Killer even begins killing, you’d wish she just abandon going after her target and focus on you instead. You’d be willing to come quietly, without putting up any struggle at all. She could even torture you first; you’ll let her. If she messes up — as she tends to — and allows you to escape, you’ll return to her lair. This is a much better proposition than having to endure even a single extra minute of the new Netflix film, starring Jacqueline Fernandez and Manoj Bajpayee as a couple from hell.
From the director of Joker (not that one) and the producer of Happy New Year (exactly the one you’re thinking of), comes a film that somehow represents a career low for them both. Mrs Serial Killer has the emotional complexity and the progressive attitude of an Ekta Kapoor serial. At one point in the film, the least morally questionable character suggests that it is ‘odd’ for an unmarried woman to visit a gynaecologist.
Watch the Mrs Serial Killer trailer here
I don’t exaggerate when I say that each of its central characters is, to some degree, a psychopath. It is established fairly early on that all is not well with Sona, the woman Jacqueline plays. In one of the film’s opening scenes, Sona decides that the best way to tell her husband that she is pregnant is to pretend that her house has been broken into by a deviant while he is away. Like virtually every scene in the film, it’s staggeringly ill-conceived, forgive the pun.
But little does poor Sona know that her husband will soon be embroiled in a Nithari-like case, after several dead bodies of ‘unmarried pregnant girls’ are discovered, poorly hidden, at their sprawling Nainital house. With no lawyer willing to take on the case, Sona, who single-handedly seems to be pushing feminism three decades into the past and redefining what it means to be a ‘doting wife’, pays a visit to an advocate her gynaecologist husband once treated for some reason. Convinced that her husband is innocent, Sona drives up to the old lawyer’s mansion and discovers that he’s on his deathbed, living out his final days in a room that looks like a Thai strip club.
Jacqueline Fernandez in a still from Mrs Serial Killer, the new Netflix India film.
In one of the film’s earliest unintentionally hilarious moments, the lawyer surprises everyone by appearing for the first hearing via video call, without even informing the prosecution, the judge, or even his client that he was going to pull the stunt. After the initial hearing, the lawyer confesses that the evidence does indeed seem to be stacked against Sona’s husband and comes up with the most preposterous idea. He tells Sona that to clear her husband’s name, she must commit a copycat murder, so that everyone thinks that the killer is still out there.
It came as somewhat of a surprise that Sona isn’t even the protagonist of the film, with the men being given the meatier roles. She’s frighteningly passive as a person, always waiting to be told what to do, and gullible beyond belief. It doesn’t help that Jacqueline delivers a poor performance, but in all honesty, even Meryl Streep would have a difficult time delivering some of these lines with a straight face.
For instance, did Manoj Bajpayee ever imagine while filming the masterpiece Aligarh, that less than five years later he’d appear in a film that would require him to yell the words “I am not a f**king ice cream” at the top of his voice? Probably not. Watching Bajpayee flail about in the role is sort of like catching an uncle of yours red-handed in a seedy part of town. You clock each other for a second, and silently agree to not breathe a word of it to anyone else. You’ve both been caught in a compromised position.
But while Jacqueline butchers the Hindi language, director Shirish Kunder displays a flagrant disregard for the language of cinema. Mrs Serial Killer has some of the worst greenscreen work I’ve ever seen, and Kunder’s idea of symbolism seems to be restricted to arranging a piece of rope to look like you — the viewer — are being flipped off.
And that’s the overall emotion that Mrs Serial Killer leaves you with. Not only does it disrespect your intelligence, it pretends –for a brief time towards the end — that it has been in on the joke all along. It has none of the tongue-in-cheek chuckles that producer Farah Khan’s Main Hoon Na did, but is, instead, a strong contender for one of the worst films of 2020.