Mumbai, 28 Aug 2020 22:38 IST
This uneven drama about a man trying to get back his bearings after losing his livelihood will strike a chord with many.
Even though Nitin Kakkar’s Ramsingh Charlie (2020) was filmed many years ago, the film’s themes and the crisis felt by its lead character, Ramsingh aka Charlie, will easily resonate in this COVID-19 pandemic-struck climate, where many industries have come to a standstill and many people have lost their jobs.
Charlie (Kumud Mishra) lives with his family and works at the Jango Circus owned by Masterji (Salima Reza). Charlie, who performs a comedy routine, was born and raised in the circus as a second generation artiste after his father Oscar.
But Masterji's sons step in and force her to retire, then shut the circus down citing costs and maintenance. Charlie has to take his wife Kajri (Divya Dutta) and son Chintu (Rohit Rokhade) to Kolkata to try and make ends meet.
He now has to hustle and hit the streets to try and find employment. When none of the circuses in the city has space for his act, he puts down his Charlie hat, suit and stick and takes on anything that he can find. Even dressing up in a chicken suit to play cricket and eventually settling down to the more stable rickshaw-puller.
With each dispiriting encounter, Charlie begins to give up and become the more ‘normal’ Ramsingh. But much as he tries to hide his inner ‘Charlie’, it is a part of him and his skin. No matter how hard he tries to squash his own dreams, he finds his way back to his first love, being a performer, and opening his own circus.
Kakkar and co-writer Sharib Hashmi (who has a small cameo as Charlie’s mentee) show the heartbreaking struggle of the circus performers who have been rendered obsolete by a single decision. But while the duo can’t do justice to all the characters from the circus, the screenplay’s focus on Charlie’s journey is uneven.
Once he decides to fulfil his desire to open his own circus, additional detours are introduced, confusing Charlie’s path to happiness. The ending feels abrupt and hurried as a voiceover from Charlie’s now adult son (Hemwant Kumar Tiwari) pays tribute to his father.
Mishra, known for his noteworthy performances in Airlift (2016), Article 15 (2019) and Thappad (2020), takes the spotlight here as an artiste struggling between art and economics. When he puts aside his creative side, he almost begins to lose himself.
The actor shows his inner turmoil beautifully, with not many dialogues or showy scenes. When he comes across some black and white paint, he slowly colours his face, showing his deep yearning to return as Charlie.
Divya Dutta, as Kajri, is Charlie's moral backbone, who silently but firmly supports her husband despite all their upheavals. The rest of the cast from Reza to Charlie’s new city friend Shahjehan (Farrukh Seyer) are memorable as well. Unfortunately, not enough time is given to the rest of the circus performers who are likely in the same boat as Charlie.
There are echoes of some filmi inspirations. His work as a rickshaw-puller reminds of you of Balraj Sahni in Do Bigha Zamin (1953), while a Raj Kapoor song ‘Jeena Isika Naam Hai’ plays over the end credits. Kolkata has been shot in all of its bustling old-world glory in the film by cinematographers Subhransu Das and Madhav Salunkhe, and one sequence where Charlie speaks to himself in costume is wonderfully executed.
No matter what crisis he is in, Charlie aims to face the situation with his ready smile (and a red nose to match) to show all is well. However, as Masterji rightly points out, the real circus is out in the world, not inside the big tent.
SonyLIV is now streaming Ramsingh Charlie.
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