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Netflix’s ‘Mrs. Serial Killer’ in Precisely 20 Honest Thoughts

Do you know how much courage it takes to voluntarily watch a film that has a scathing 2.8/10 rating on IMDB? Even a quick Google search can’t save Netflix’s newest Mrs. Serial Killer that dropped on 1 May.

Starring Jacqueline Fernandez and *drum roll* Manoj Bajpayee (and a few other really bad actors), Mrs. Serial Killer is the latest addition to Netflix India’s increasingly long list of let-downs. The disappointment just...does not end and neither do my thoughts.

To be fair, Jacqueline (AKA Shona) had warned us way ahead of time. Remember the trailer where she said this?

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 writer 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.

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.

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.

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.

In Mrs. Serial Killer, a wife tries to save her gynecologist husband from being executed for killing six young pregnant women. This psychological thriller from India had me in suspense during most of its running time. It also had me guessing about who did these dastardly deeds. If hubby didn’t do it, who was guilty? Despite the film’s serious theme and downer images, I enjoyed its clever camera tricks, and the parody attitude of certain scenes appealed to me. However, I realize a movie like this is not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s splashed with so much blood and gore. Plus, everything feels too disjointed.

Still, I think some movie fans would appreciate a few of the film’s highlights. My favorite? A scene showing the wife feeling like the walls are closing in on her. Well done!

An intriguing cast works hard to sell this outlandish offering.  Jacqueline Fernandez (Drive) looks gorgeous as the devoted wife. Portraying the accused gynecologist, Manoj Bajpayee (Sonchiriya) reminds us of those old Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde film characters. Darshan Jariwala (BadBoy), playing the bedridden lawyer, projects a mysterious aura in his short sessions with the wife. And, Mohit Raina (Good Newwz) makes the police inspector assigned to the case appear the most puzzling one of all.                   

A husband, wife, lawyer and cop

may say they want killing to stop.

But one of them is the killer,

making this film a real chiller.

“Mrs. Serial Killer” shows

a bit of fun that sometimes glows.

Naughty and nasty with the gore.

Yet some fans might cry out for more.

Faint of heart, please look away.

Not for you this movie to play.

It’s mystery fans who might enjoy

trying to figure out the ploy.

Directed by Shirish Kunder (Sweetheart), Mrs. Serial Killer ends up as a mixed bag. The first scene comes across as quite confusing, but don’t worry. You will see it later again in proper sequence. Plus, despite so many dark scenes, your imagination will work overtime about what’s happening on screen --  and you might be right.