Main Aur Charles: Charles without the killer instinct

A still from the movie. Photo: Special arrangement  

More style than substance, director Praawal Raman manages to capture the mystique of Charles Sobhraj, one of the most notorious con artists of our time. Part fiction, part fact and part hearsay, he tries to unravel the hypnotic appeal of the half-Vietnamese and half-Indian criminal who had a way with women and the media.

In Randeep Hooda he has an actor who translates the charisma of the man, whose stories continue to drive gossip mills, on the screen. With his walk, his accent and his flair, Randeep captures the flamboyance and the chameleonic quality of the bikini killer and draws you into the narrative. But once there it becomes difficult to find your way.

Praawal weaves his narrative around Charles’ famous jailbreak from Tihar in 1986 and subsequent arrest in Goa. It is a straightforward story, which is made to go back and forth to engage the audience. It leads to unnecessary confusion.

Director: Praawal Raman
Genre: Thriller/ Drama
Cast: Randeep Hooda, Richa Chadda, Adil Hussain, Tisca Chopra
Bottomline: Randeep is cool, Adil is terrific but Praawal loses steam midway.
The idea is to create a Hollywood style sleek crime thriller brimming with erotica but in the process Praawal gets carried away. He manages to create the mood but the meat is missing. The first half is devoted to Charles’ exploits in the bedroom. As he moves from one girl to the other, the game of light and shadows gets repetitive particularly when Charles has more on his mind than just sex.

The girls think that he is besotted with them but in fact he wants their passports and money to move on to the next level. Those who survive his drugs have a justification for falling for the serpent. Like Meera (Richa Chadda), the student of law, who is smitten by his charm, says, “Every man thinks about other women. At least his thought and action are synchronised.” But we don’t know what his ultimate aim was, as Praawal's writing meanders.

In comes Amod Kanth (Adil Hussain), the police officer who doesn’t buy Charles’ stories. The film is as much a sketch of Amod as it is of Charles. Adil Hussain brings gravitas to the role but he is let down by the writing which suddenly goes overboard to strike a balance between the good and the evil.

As after a point the story is told from Kanth’s perspective, it muzzles the director’s voice. In between there are nice touches like when Amod’s wife (Tisca) asks him about the famed virility of the man and the officer loses his mind or when Amod uses Charles’ man management tricks to get even, but such moments are few and far between. Praawal is either on Charles’ or on Amod’s side. There is hardly any intermingling of the black and white. Also, the jail break sequences and the subsequent chase demand more raw intensity than the slickness of the first half. And nothing is more frustrating when a thriller begins to sound like a drama!

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 9:41:34 AM |

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