Murder Mubarak movie review: Self-aware satire that mostly delivers on the whodunit promise | Bollywood - Hindustan Times
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Murder Mubarak movie review: Self-aware satire that mostly delivers on the whodunit promise

Mar 18, 2024 11:29 AM IST

It probably would've worked better as a miniseries because of the necessity of length, but this film is still essential fun.

By the time Murder Mubarak ends, the temptation to weigh it alongside The White Lotus and the Knives Out franchise, too, disappears. Because this Homi Adajania film isn’t essentially just about a bunch of rich pricks socialising at an angrezon ke zamaane ka country club. It’s a self-aware satire piece that ultimately works out. 

Murder Mubarak movie review: Vijay Varma and Sara Ali Khan headline this whodunit
Murder Mubarak movie review: Vijay Varma and Sara Ali Khan headline this whodunit

(Also Read – OTT releases to watch this weekend: Murder Mubarak to Bramayugam, Main Atal Hoon to Big Girls Don't Cry and more)

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The beginning feels somewhat pretentious, as a roll call of high-society generic characters is introduced with monikers that are supposed to be shorthand for their character descriptions — even as a child goes about looking for a cat named Prince Harry. Karisma Kapoor plays a movie star whose stardom borders on washed-up, somewhat close to her contemporary Raveena Tandon in the recent Karmma Calling. Then, Ashim Gulati and Suhail Nayyar co-starred in Jee Karda, another project set in a similar social class last year. There are the character actors, too — Brijendra Kala, Tisca Chopra, Deven Bhojani, and the reigning king of them all, the agreeable and loquacious Pankaj Tripathi. You think you’ve seen this film before.

Twist in the tale

Then the hijinks begin. Vijay Varma’s character breaks the fourth wall to imitate Tripathi’s affection for oral gesticulation. It’s as if to say, ‘I know what you see, but it’s not that’. Adajania, in his own out-of-left-field style, toys with the Rashomon effect. The delightful screenplay cross-cuts between realities, such as the dryly funny murder scene from a film where a blood-splattered Karisma whispers into Pankaj’s ear, “Yeh pata lagaane ki hi tankhwah sarkar aapko deti hai (the government pays you to find the killer)."

This is Karisma’s return to the screen and she looks drop-dead gorgeous. But one of Murder Mubarak’s wins, as some may attribute singularly to OTT, is that it never gives more seriousness to any one character. Karisma is droll in her depiction of a B-grade actor with a dark past, as is Sanjay Kapoor, playing a deadbeat raja flexing the ghosts of patriarchal pride at every opportunity.

The film is, of course, about murder, and in the event that you correctly resolve the mystery midway through the film without the right theorem, you’ll still be able to enjoy it. Whodunits are a highly functional genre because of the revelation-after-revelation structure that they need to proceed and complicate the business end of the knot. Adajania and his writers, Suprotim Sengupta and Gazal Dhaliwal, keep them light in this film.

The only grouse I have with the writing is that sometimes it misfires, making obvious points with the attempted finesse that comes with subtlety, including the stretched tirade about communism and class commentary that Vijay’s mother doles out. The caricaturish portrayals of a group of shallow and materialistic Delhi elite are, I suppose, mostly for comic relief and, thankfully, Chopra imbues hers with a heightened farcical glaze.

The verdict

At one point in the film, the chatty Pankaj Tripathi agrees with Vijay’s offhand suggestion that sleuthing and love are sides of the same coin. It’s on that note that this story resolves itself. Since the plot comes from the Anuja Chauhan novel Club You to Death, credit to the casting team for mostly getting it right.

This is Sara Ali Khan’s most urbane role in a while, and she makes full use of the agency afforded to this character, even if belabouring it sometimes. The script juices to the last drop the viewer’s readiness to accept the Vijay Varma character as a twisted and broken practitioner of casual violence.

The red herrings and the backstory involving Varun Mitra could have gotten less screen time. Murder Mubarak probably would have worked better as a miniseries purely because of the necessity of length, but all said and done, this film is essential fun.

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