Main Aur Charles review: Randeep Hooda is seductive as the deadly Charles Sobhraj
Main Aur Charles finds its groove in the second half
Main Aur Charles is very seductive film. Just like it’s deadly subject, Charles Sobhraj.
The film starts off with an overarching tone of '70s and '80s Bollywood (think Amitabh Bachchan in Don, complete with bell bottoms et al). Music and stylized visuals tell us about Sobhraj’s dubious history, which is steeped in the hippie culture in Thailand. Soon, the screenplay moves on to Sobhraj’s imprisonment in India in the Eighties and his famous jail-break.
Charles Sobhraj, of French and Indian origin, nicknamed "The Serpent", or “bikini killer”, was a murderer, convicted for at least 12 murders in Southeast Asia. His escape from India’s most highly guarded prison-Tihar Jail in 1986, made him famous. But his killer charm made him popular---both amongst the media and apparently some 30 odd women.
In Main Aur Charles, writer/director Prawaal Raman (better known for Darna Mana hai), along with Randeep Hooda has nailed that roguish enigmatic quality of Sobhraj. And the main weapon of lethal appeal to the senses is Aditya Trivedi’s theme music.
Be it in the style with which he wears his hat or the coloured glasses or the side-parting wig, but all these factors make Hooda a believable Sobhraj. It’s in the perfect cover-up body language of a deceptively dressed gentleman of refined tastes. It’s in the way he bends over a record player to play a French song in jail, minutes before he escapes. It’s in the amusing half French accent, which makes you forget his Haryanvi antecedents. It’s in the sharp look in his eyes that remind you of the wicked brain at work. It’s in the way he sits cross-legged and adopts that almost harmless look.
He is easily Randeep Charles Hooda. Hot and dangerous.
With such a silken-mannered actor in place to play the smooth operator, half of the director’s job is done. But Raman delights as he stylises the film with cinematography and plays with light and shadows.
However, it must be said that while he displays mastery over the soundtrack, colour tones, actors, camera work, look and feel, Raman falls short on the script department. It may make sense to bypass Sobhraj’s entire colourful life story and tell primarily the main Tihar jailbreak event, but very little material is explored to tell an effective, holistic story.
Since Sobhraj’s actual escape can be told in twenty minutes, the script weaves in a fictional and glamorous Bollywoodised underworld. The first half takes us to Thailand, along with Sobhraj’s jaunts with Liz (Mandana Karimi, who is now on Bigg Boss season 9) and then moves to the eclectic Goa nightlife, replete with cabaret dances and bikini clad foreigners. It takes time to settle into the story with multiple timelines telling a journey that doesn’t add up to much.
The plot touches upon a humorous and more authentic sequence of goof-ups by cops and the confused power play between Goa, Mumbai and Delhi police fighting for the Sobhraj prize. The Mumbai cop, Sudhakar (Nandu Madhav) is more believable than the main Delhi cop, Amod Kanth (Adil Hussain).
The story is told from Kanth’s point of view, hence the title. Both Hussain’s characterization and performance, along with his interactions with his wife (Tisca Chopra) are least convincing and weaken what could have been the more intense part of the film.
Main Aur Charles finds its groove in the second half with Kanth at the helm, following up on Sobhraj’s four accomplices, including his law student girlfriend, Mira (Richa Chadda).
Chadda has one good scene where she tries to convince how misunderstood the criminal Sobhraj really is. Her blind love and faith is well captured in her adamant expressions and lines. "He (Charles) can escape but no one can escape him,” she says.
You don’t really mind the missing hard-boiled plot, because by the time the film ends, we are treated to well-shot frames and the amazing theme music. Style wins. The seduction is complete.
'Zoom Zoom' is sung by Ash King and Iulia Vantur.
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