Main Aur Charles
Director: Prawaal Raman
Cast: Randeep Hooda, Richa Chadha
The intriguing personality of ‘Bikini Killer’ Charles Shobhraj handed Prawaal Raman the perfect recipe to create an enticing thriller on the platter. By casting Randeep Hooda, the director-writer also ensured that he had a face as charming as Shobhraj’s. However, what he has ended up making is a confused film.
Main Aur Charles offers little to the audience: Neither do you get any insight into Shobhraj’s criminal mind, nor do you get to know the motive behind the psychopath’s schemes. While promoting the film, director Raman insisted that it is not Shobhraj’s biopic but is about the infamous Tihar jailbreak incident and based on the case files of police officer Amod Kanth. But the narrative is not that of a police officer. There is perhaps an attempt to show Shobhraj from the perspective of a man (Amod Kanth) who tracked his cases close enough to know about him but Raman’s narrative keeps the audience at bay.
It tries to portray Shobhraj as an enigmatic and intriguing personality which is worth a case study: Right at the beginning, he is described as ‘hypnotic, brutal, intelligent and ruthless’. But the film does not attempt to delve further into Shobhraj’s mind. Raman focusses on Shobhraj’s image at the cost of almost ignoring the man himself. Almost 15 minutes into the film and you don’t get to see Shobhraj: Everyone’s talking about him, there are front page newspaper reports, you also get to see his silhouette smoking and even having sex, but not his face. Sadly, Raman continues with his obsession for this imagery throughout the film without ever validating the person. This build-up to a mysterious personality could best be followed by some proof as to how charming and intelligent the man is, instead of simply having all the other characters sing about it. The film does not just fail, it crashes miserably.
If there is one thing you get to see and believe - it is Shobhraj’s deftness with women. The credit goes to Hooda: With the snake-like slipperiness in his mannerisms and the fascinating smirk on his face, the actor ensures you do not doubt for a second that he is the man who charmed hundreds of women into bed, killed dozens of people and kept eluding the police of various countries for years.
If there is something else that is commendable in the film, apart from Hooda’s effortless acting, it is the subtle critique of our bureaucratic system. At one point, Shobhraj is caught in Goa by Mumbai Police and a fight ensues between the police departments of Delhi, Mumbai and Goa over the jurisdiction. There are several instances when Shobhraj is helped by people inside the police department and jail authorities in his endeavours - from his meetings with journalists (for which he charged them) or his visitors to his escape from the prison. The confession of the jailer, who was also a co-accused with Shobhraj in the jailbreak, highlights the psyche of people in the system and the way they justify corruption and bribery.
Richa Chaddha plays a young law student who falls for Shobhraj while Adil Hussain plays Amod Kanth. Both actors have put in their best for the characters.
Main Aur Charles gains some momentum in the second half and gives us a closer look at Shobhraj, the man, but does not dig deeper into his psyche or reveals much about him. You should avoid this film at all costs: The narrative offers nothing at all and despite the good performances, badly-sketched characters leave little for the actors to do.
The author tweets @Twitter/swetakaushal