When a serial killer becomes active in the Indian City of Mumbai it sets off a chain of events that will eventually bring together some seemingly unrelated characters. Here is our review of director Rahul Nath’s Monster pilot episode.
When you think about films from India you would be forgiven for thinking about the prolific Bollywood industry whose movies have traditionally stayed within the narrow, or should that be, outlandish confines of fantasy, musical romances. What often gets forgotten is that for 70 years, since the legendary Indian director Satyajit Ray changed the face of Indian film with his Apu trilogy, there have also been a number of hard-hitting dramas that have tried to focus on, or at least set themselves within, the realities and darker aspects of everyday Indian life.
Rahul Nath is a director of such modern films, we have reviewed a number of his shorts here on Screen Critix over the years and all have taken us out of our comfort zone, opening our eyes to a completely different way of life than we are used to. ‘Stronger’ reviewed back in August 2018 was the story of sexual assault, involving an angry and frustrated man who took all his problems and insecurities out on the women he meets during his life. Meanwhile the year before in 2017 we reviewed ‘Monster’ another dark and disturbing drama, this time about a Father and daughter’s strange and murderous bonding exercises. This time we have a TV Pilot entitled ‘Monster’ and, although distantly related to the earlier Monster, this might just be Nath’s breakthrough project.
As we open we meet a couple in a car, parked up in a quiet, dark, and deserted area on the outskirts of Mumbai. The male partner is doing all the talking, telling his date all about his youth. As the scene continues, the man calmly gets out of the car walks around to the passenger side, gently drags the unresponsive body of his murder victim out. Then simply leaves her, lifeless, at the side of the road. It’s a very unnerving start and the first brilliant twist of many in what can only be described as a cracking TV pilot.
Over the past decade, we have been spoilt for choice by the many great Nordic Noir TV shows and films as well as their English language remakes. Shows like The Bridge and The Killing proved so popular that they spawned their own remakes on different continents including Asia. ‘Monster’ belongs in the same category as these well-received classics. It is only 20 minutes long but all of the Nordic crime tropes are here, an enigmatic killer, the policeman in charge of the case who has his own problems, this time it’s a mother who is trying to arrange his marriage. It features fascinating locations that are lit so darkly as to permeate a sense of unease everywhere you go, and a labyrinth collection of characters who we know will eventually become involved with each other, as well as an air of mystery that surrounds not only the killer and his motives but also everyone else who is involved in the opening episode.
It’s difficult to write much more about ‘Monster’ mainly because I don’t want to spoil the clever plot points which are smartly introduced. The timing of the reveals is a major reason for the success of the film as they are placed at the precise moments they are warranted and you find yourself instantly craving for more answers.
With a strong ensemble of actors, clever plotting, beautiful cinematography by Shivam Borkar and pitch-perfect direction from Nath himself, ‘Monster’ is a brilliant pilot episode that deserves to be picked up by the major Indian networks as not only does it tell a perfectly self-contained story it also leaves the audience chomping at the bit for future episodes. I highly recommend you see ‘Monster’ now before the inevitable soft-focus American remake.