Munjya is fresh, frolicsome, non-frightening fare

The CGI-created Munjya plays the title-role in the new horror comedy. Photo: Hype PR

Horror comedies can be terrific (Golmaal Again, Stree, Bhediya) or terrible (Great Grand Masti, Roohi). This one belongs to the former category almost throughout its 123-minute length, but woefully slips a bit, thanks to a needlessly elongated climax, which is followed by a post-climax and a post-post-climax!

But for the last 20 minutes, the movie is totally fresh, charts new territory in the horror genre, has great flashes of humor, and does not follow a template in terms of genre or content. It even mocks at tropes, like the “priest” named Elvis Karim Prabhakar, who spouts “Hand of Jesus!”, knows the ins and outs of a munjya and admits that he is a fraud, otherwise! The literature he reads on munjya is a “Hindu” text from the Konkan belt of Maharashtra, where the story is based. A munjya is the spirit of a human being who has passed on after his thread ceremony (munja) is done but is usually craving for a partner in marriage!

It is 1952. Gotya is a young village boy who loves Munni, seven years older to him, and wants to marry her. His furious parents beat him up and conduct his thread ceremony after the obsessed boy tries to poison Munni’s would-be husband. But Gotya does not give up. He takes his young sister, Gita (Khushi Hajare), to the dense jungle of Chetukwadi to conduct black magic in front of a tree so that Munni can become his. He wants to offer Gita as a human sacrifice, and she resists. In the ensuing fracas, Gotya dies, and since he has died an adolescent, his spirit becomes a munjya, and the village elders tie the spirit to the tree.

Decades later, Bittu (Abhay Verma), a sweet young man who works in his mother, Pammi (Mona Singh)’s beauty parlor, comes to visit his ancestral home in the village for cousin Rukku (Bhagyashree Limaye)’s engagement. Her father, who is Bittu’s paternal uncle, Balu Kaka (Ajay Purkar) has always hated Bittu’s Punjabi mother and he maliciously reveals to Bittu how his father died as the munjya had killed him. Bittu’s affectionate grandmother (Suhasini Joshi) and mother had always hidden this truth from him. It is revealed that his grandmother is the same Gita. Bittu goes deep into the jungle towards the tree where his father was killed.

And now the Munjya breaks free, kills his grandmother and begins to haunt Bittu! As only Bittu can see Munjya, everyone feels that Bittu has become mentally disturbed by his grandmother’s death and has begun taking drugs because of his sudden weird conduct as he interacts with the spirit, which only he can see. His best friend, Diljit, a videographer and Steven Spielberg fan (Taranjot Singh), also thinks the same but is soon converted to the truth. Munjya wants Bittu to find Munni so that he can marry her at last!

Alongside, Bittu loves Bela (Sharvari Wagh), who is in love with Kuba (Richard John Lovatt), a foreigner. Bittu and Bela have been childhood friends. And when Bittu and Diljit investigate who Munni can be with Rukku’s help, they find out that she, now an old lady, is Bela’s grandmother. Munjya is now no longer interested in marrying her and wants to wed Bela instead! What happens next?

Very rare Hindi cinemas tread totally uncharted terrain in entertaining fashion: such films are rarities that come only a few times in every decade, and Munjya is one such case. Yogesh Chandekar’s story is very ethnic, fresh, even frolicsome but not at all frightening, and Niren Bhatt co-writes with Tushar Ajgaonkar. There is one hitch in the process: the climax is stretched beyond measure and should have been reduced by a good 10 minutes. Luckily, the post-climaxes (two of them, one after the obligatory end-credits item song!) save the film and give it a fitting end.

Such a film cannot work without the correct atmospherics and it is to director Aditya Sarpotdar’s eternal credit that he not only has a firm grip on the narrative (the last parts can be excused as possible “commercial” pressure as the movie lacks star value!) but also extracts great performances. There is brilliant cinematography (Saurabh Goswami) and the VFX and Computer Graphics shine. A big shout-out also to Koushik Chatterjee, Akhileshwar Prasad and Sarvesh Dilip Sawant, the animators: their creation of Munjya is terrific—he’s cute and funny yet ferocious, like an insolent brat, and so you cannot hate him—or even be scared of him!

Justin Varghese’s background score is generally adept, but Sachin-Jigar’s music is just so-so in context. Once again, like in Chandu Champion, we have Punjabi words (Tainu khabar nahin) written by the same Amitabh Bhattacharya in a movie revolving around a Maharashtrian setup!

Abhay Verma, Sharvari Wagh and the Munjya in Munjya. Photo: Hype PR

The hero of the film, in all senses, is Abhay Verma. As Bittu, he is endearing and dazzles—I want to see much more of this prodigious talent when so many newcomers are being hyped out of proportion. Sharvari Wagh is alright, and a delightful turn comes from Suhasini Joshi as Bittu’s grandmother.

Taranjot Singh and Ajay Purkar are brilliant in their roles while Mona Singh expectedly delivers as Bittu’s mother. Special pats are needed for the two child artistes: Ayush Ulagadde as Gotya is truly menacing (!!) and Khushi Hajare as the young Gita very cute. S. Sathyaraj’s character of the ‘exorcist’ Elvis Karim Prabhakar is meant solely to entertain and he manages to do the needful very well. The rest of the cast is competent.

As a horror comedy, despite the last 20 minutes, the film is worth a visit, and I will be watching Aditya Sarpotdar’s work with interest in the films to come: he is Dinesh Vijan’s best directorial discovery after Homi Adajania and Amar Kaushik.


Maddock Films’ Munjya  Produced by: Dinesh Vijan & Amar Kaushik  Directed by: Aditya Sarpotdar  Written by: Yogesh Chandekar, Niren Bhatt & Tushar Ajgaonkar  Music: Sachin-Jigar & Skeletron  Starring: Abhay Verma, Sharvari Wagh, Suhasini Joshi, Mona Singh, Taranjot Singh, Ajay Purkar, S. Sathyaraj, Ayush Ulagadde, Khushi Hajare, Bhagyashree Limaye, Richard John Lovatt, Shruti Marathe, Anay Kamat, Reema Chaudhary, Rasika Vengurlekar  Sp. App.: Varun Dhawan & Abhishek Banerjee




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