Main Aur Charles is a intelligently conceived crime thriller flick by Prawaal Raman and is as hypnotic as the principle character of the movie that has been enacted with panache by Randeep Hooda. Though, the makers claim that that this is a work of fiction with a disclaimer in the beginning but there is no iota of doubt that the movie is based on the famous Charles Sobhraj who is also known as 'The Bikini Killer' or 'The Serpent'. Since the makers didn't have rights from Charles to make a biopic on him, so they have cleverly concocted a tale on the version of Amod Kant, the cop who worked on Sobhraj's Tihar jailbreak case. Hence, the movie is not a biopic on him but is centered around his escape from Tihar jail and how he is caught again. The story follows a non-linear way of narration which requires you to invest your brains whilst watching this movie. Hollywood has made several cult films based on serial killers but on the contrary Bollywood hasn't been able to explore this genre in justifiable manner. Though, several films have been made on serial killers in Bollywood too but very few were able to hit at the right spot. Main Aur Charles is one of those rare Bollywood movies that explores the genre in most justifiable and able way. The movie is not about Charles Sobhraj but about his hypnotic charisma which he encashed to the optimum by manipulating people around him. The movie ably showcases a certain life period of Sobhraj - the half Vietnamese and half Indian con artist, smuggler who racked up a series of convictions for murder and robbery in the 1970's, and who is currently lodged in a prison in Nepal. Such was his hypnotic charm that right from Princesses, law students, Jail staff and even Criminal Psychologists, fell prey to it and very few remained insusceptible. Prawaal Raman has crafted his character in the movie meticulously with lot of detailing and this is something which works in the favor of the movie hugely. And, an uncanny resemblance of Randeep Hooda coupled with his acting prowess has acted as an icing on the cake.
The story as well as screenplay of the movie has been penned down by Prawaal Raman who has done a swell job at it. It is no mean task, penning a script that holds your attention while its intention is to throw you off the mark. To the credit of Prawaal....no strand remains untied. Taut and refreshing, the script of Main Aur Charles keeps you on your toes with its tendency to throw surprises at several junctures. Moreover, I feel when a director helms a film written by him, his vision gets crafted on celluloid in the most justifiable way. The film begins with a non-linear pattern of narrative by showing Charles (Randeep Hooda) escaping from Thailand after a dead tourist is spotted at a beach wearing a bikini. After that, the film moves on to Charles's infamous jail break from Delhi in 1986. Charles escapes from the prison with three other convicts. The case is handed over to Amod Kant (Adil Hussain) who begins investigations into the case by visiting the jail and suspending the Jail warden (Vipin Sharma). Amod Kant detains Meera (Richa Chaddha) who is a law student on the suspicion of aiding Charles in his escape from prison. Charles moves to Mumbai from Delhi and a Mumbai cop Sudhakar Zhende (Nandu Madhav) who had arrested him in the past is directed to track him down. Soon, Charles moves to Goa after committing a con in Mumbai and Sudhakar follows his trail. One day, an unknown caller calls Sudhakar informing him about Charles's presence at a party. Sudhakar goes to the party and arrests Charles. Amod Kant flies to Mumbai and after taking custody of Charles, brings him back to Delhi. Won't like to spill the rest of the story as what transpires next is a mix of shocking revelations.
Succinct to say, all the actors have been cast perfectly as per their characters in the movie and they have portrayed their respective characters with utmost conviction. Leading from the front is......Randeep Hooda. Randeep is a powerhouse of talent who has been underestimated & underutilized by our film Industry. But, Main Aur Charles gave him an opportunity to play a complex character and Oh Boy! he has ably carried the movie on his broad shoulders. Pertinent to say, Randeep is the soul of this movie. Randeep Hooda along with the technical brilliance of the movie hold the key to the film's efficacy. To his credit, we are not able to locate Randeep Hooda in the movie but only Charles. And, this is the best compliment an actor can get for his performance in the movie. His hard work towards portraying this character....be it in form of dialect, body language can easily be gauged from his on-screen performance. Same holds true for Adil Hussain who has essayed the character of Amod Kant with effortless ease. Adil has truly delivered a subtle, mature performance which speaks volumes about his acting finesse. Whether be as the tough cop relentlessly chasing Charles or as the husband who is miffed at his wife over her questioning about Sobhraj's charming exuberance, Adil nails it to perfection. Despite being on hot trail of Charles, Adil displays a cool demeanour which is hallmark of a fine actor. Richa Chaddha has ably portrayed the character of Meera, a law student who is lovelorn about Charles upto the extent of being stupid. She has literally lived her part as you can feel for her when she keeps on saying 'Mera Charles' despite knowing that he is a convicted crook. Tisca Chopra shines as Amod Kant's wife. Tisca is one fine actress who always manages to leave a impression with her effective performance. Nandu Madhav is apt as Sudhakar Zhende. Vipin Sharma is another good actor who has proven his versatility by playing diverse roles. In this movie, he provides some comic relief by playing a jail warden who is in awe of Charles. He addresses Charles as Charles Sir & tells Charles's female friends to feel at home while they are partying in his jail office. Not to forget, Shaanti who plays the part of a princess and becomes a victim of Con-game played by Charles. Shaanti looks every inch the charming princess that she's supposed to portray on-screen.
The musical soundtrack as well as the background score of the movie that has been composed by Aditya Trivedi not only gels wells with the narrative but also provides a further thrust to on-screen proceedings. The cinematographer of the movie is Anuj Rakesh Dhawan who has done a swell job at capturing visuals. Trippy Goa's party culture, even in the rundown bits, lends a wonderful edge to Anuj's visual commentary. Long shots, wide camera angles and apt usage of color palettes as per the requirement of the shots by Anuj is praiseworthy. A special mention of Salim Asgar Ali, Josie Paris (Costume Designers) and Jeetendra Kawa (Production Designer) for their effective contributions in their respective fields. The movie has been edited by Nipun Gupta who has kept the run-time to 123 minutes. Nipun has done great job at the editing table as he manages to hold your interest despite the non-linear pattern of narrative. As a director, Prawaal Raman, with the skills of a master storyteller, amalgamates a mysterious charming person's story in a thriller format. With his adroit direction, Raman not only springs many surprises but also concentrates on fine detailing. There are no exaggerated dramatic flourishes here, no playing to the galleries. Unlike other biopics or period films which have conveniently and lazily restored to antiques, artifacts and vintage songs, Main Aur Charles simply and effortlessly emerges from the character and his persona.
Main Aur Charles is a 123 minutes epical noir with its unescapable gritty tone. It's a well made thriller and if you have penchant for slowly cooked up crime thrillers moving at a languid pace, this one is cut out for you.
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