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Another migraine from Maddock – Beyond Bollywood


An overdose of mindless humour is doing disservice to folklore as well as the horror genre. Going forward, Maddock Films should seriously introspect on their ‘Vijan’ of horror comedies.

Rating: ⭐️💫 (1.5 / 5)

By Mayur Lookhar

Though labeled as the Maddock Supernatural Universe, the three preceding movies haven’t quite delivered a cohesive franchise experience. They’ve teased the promise of integration into one grand film, but the different titles, storylines, and largely uncommon casts make them feel more like standalone films.

It all started with Amar Kaushik’s Stree (2018), which revived horror-comedies in Bollywood. Like Priyadarshan’s Bhool Bhulaiyya (2007), Stree had the right mix of horror and comedy. However, the two subsequent films, Roohi (2021) and Bhediya (2022), have flattered to deceive.

After navigating Central India and the North East in their previous films, Maddock Films has now traveled to the Konkan coast in search of a local legend. The producer duo of Dinesh Vijan and Amar Kaushik has adopted a horses for courses policy by roping in noted Marathi cinema filmmaker Aditya Sarpotdar to tell the Munjya story. Sarpotdar, who also helmed the respectable Hindi film The Sholay Girl (2019), directs this project. The story by Yogesh Chandekar is penned by Niren Bhatt.

Traditionally, Munjya is the thread ceremony for young Brahmin boys and has its layer of mythology. It is believed that if a boy dies within 10 days after the thread ceremony, his spirit takes the shape of a Brahmarakshas. In the Konkan belt, such demons are labeled as Munjyas.

The haunting in this film dates back to 1952 when a stubborn child named Gotya falls madly in love with Munni, a woman seven years older than him. The boy tries to create havoc at her wedding but is stopped by her mother and relatives. This was purely a one-sided affair. However, Gotya is hellbent on getting Munni, by hook or by crook. A tragedy ensues, giving rise to the Chitukwadi haunting.

Fast forward to the present day, we’re introduced to a Pune-based family where a Punjabi lady named Pammi [Mona Singh] lives with her son Bittu [Abhay Verma] and mother-in-law [played by Suhas Joshi]. Over the years, Bittu has been plagued by nightmares of Chitukwadi. Pammi never wishes to see her child in the Konkan belt, but Bittu simply follows his dadi. In a fit of rage, he ends up at the forbidden place and inadvertently unleashes the Munjya.

For Hindi viewers, the Munjya story might seem fresh, but as far back as 2004, actor-filmmaker Mahesh Kothare’s Marathi film Pachhadlela featured a character similar to Munjya, obsessed with marriage. Nevertheless, most Hindi viewers will find the Konkan legends intriguing. However, it’s the average screenplay and performances that barely manage to build much engagement.

Inspired by the success of Stree, producer Dinesh Vijan conceived the idea of the Maddock Supernatural Universe. However, post-Stree, the subsequent films have proven to be disappointing. Bhediya [2022] showed promise but failed to do justice to the story. In fact, Maddock’s approach has been so careless that it raises concerns about whether these folklore tales are being reduced to mere jokes. There’s no rule that horror must always include comedy. Actor and producer Soham Shah’s Tumbbad [2018] was also based on a legend but took a more traditional approach to horror.

Unfortunately, Tumbbad struggled at the box office. Is the fear of commercial failure driving producers to dilute traditional horror with comedy? Despite its flaws, Ajay Devgn’s Shaitaan [2024] resisted the temptation and received rich rewards. Maddock seems to have been blinded by the success of Stree failing to do justice to any of the subsequent films in the so-called franchise. Munjya, undoubtedly, is the most disappointing of the lot.

Abhay Verma and Sharvari

Abhay Verma is a young actor. We first saw him portray a transgender character in the somber film Safed (2023), where, more than his performance, his constantly running nose made viewers uncomfortable. Thankfully, such distractions are absent here, but Verma fails to leave much of an impression.  Is he being cast for his curly hair?

Sharvari Wagh is the granddaughter of the late Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi. We haven’t seen Bunty Aur Babli 2 [2021], but the buzz surrounding the film wasn’t particularly positive. In Munjya, she portrays Bela, appearing visibly older than Verma, as demanded by the story. Initially, she exudes an academic presence, and her relationship with a British man feels flimsy. Later, she becomes central to the plot, and Sharvari appears intimidating when possessed by Munjya, yet there isn’t much to write home about.

Suhas Joshi

A Punjabi character aids Sarpotdar and Dinesh Vijan in bringing their Konkan tale to the Hindi audience. Sarpotdar adeptly maintains objectivity in depicting this Punjabi-Marathi union. Despite being widowed, Pammi shares a bittersweet relationship with her mother-in-law. Ajji (Suhas Joshi) stands out as the sole likable character in the film, embodying the strength to confront Munjya head-on.

Gollum in The Lord of the Rings.

Sarpotdar’s Munjya is a CGI creation that might send a few shivers down your spine, but the character design make him look like a distant Konkani cousin of Gollum from The Lord of The Rings franchise. Andy Serkis was brilliant as the voice of Gollum. A Munjya on the back also evokes memories of our own fable Vikram Betaal. The significant difference, however, is that unlike Betaal, you quickly want this Munjya off your back. Not because he is scary, but because he is so annoying to the ears. A poor voice cast and loud sound designs will seriously inconvenience you. After the initial chills, even Munjya fails to scare you as the film gets lost in its mindless comedy.

Sathyaraj

Sathyaraj, renowned for his role in Baahubali, brings a touch of amusement to his portrayal of Elvis Karim Prabhakar, a spoof on miraculous religious healers and ghostbusters who claim to possess divine powers. Meanwhile, Bittu’s Sikh cousin delivers some expected punches, leaving us pondering, “Munni kyun badnaam hui?”

Though just over two hours long, Munjya feels exhaustive due to its poor screenplay, below-par direction, and mindless comedy. The visual effects are fine but graphics alone don’t constitute a good film.

It’s hard to believe that Munjya is from the production that gave us Stree; that looks like a distant memory. The idea of Roohi, Bhediya, Munjya, and Stree all coming together is intriguing, but Dinesh Vijan and Amar Kaushik need to seriously introspect their Maddock Supernatural Universe. When your stories come from legends, and if you fail with screenplay, writing, and cast, then it begs the question: what are Kaushik and Maddock truly bringing to the table? At the moment, this MSU feels like nothing but a Migraine Sinusitis Universe.

Watch the video review below.


Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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