Monday, April 25, 2016

Movie Review: Charlie

Foreword: Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to another moony monday. Today I present to you a brand new feature, Monday Movie Mania!! (Ahem, that name is something I just thought up, so hey this might not be a recurring feature.  Don't hold me to this!)



When was the last time you enjoyed a movie where the hero is a bearded man-child who is a vagabond and hates responsibilities and lives the free happy life of a hippie. (Don't we all men yearn for this!) Where the heroine is a bright-eyed idealist who falls in love with the idea of a ghost based on a graphic novel. (Do girls like to be like this, I wonder?) And the story? A twisted pretzel of a meandering journey through bohemian lakeside towns and misty hill-stations laden with tea-estates and quaint old-age homes. Possibly never before.

Yesterday night, I watched one of the biggest money-spinners of the 2015 Malayalam film industry - a movie called Charlie starring Dulquer Salman and Parvathy.  A truly spell-binding winner of a movie coming from a mature film industry that's been of late witnessing some wonderful changes and continues to surprise us. ( or me, rather)

At the heart of it, it's a rather straight-forward romantic comedy but the treatment of the movie is very special. The characters truly mesmerize and more so, because of the consummate and dazzling performances by both the lead actors.


So the story follows Tessa (Parvathy in a blinder of a role) a vivacious, bright-eyed self-assured girl trying to find the meaning of her life - not to be bogged down by marriages fixed by tyrant mothers, she runs away from home and lands up in Bohemia-redefined in the back-alleys of Fort Kochi. A vibrant living breathing part of this city full of splashy colors and kitsch decorations, lived in by the weirdest of characters - an old goat-herd, an extremely empathetic thief on a tight timetable for 'robbing' , a god-fearing boatman who loves his family and starts believe in the existence of mermaids - and linking all of them together, a djinni who is worse than the migratory birds when it comes to his appearances and disappearances. The djinni of course, is Charlie ( strangely enough, a name that never gets uttered till the last scene of the movie!) the previous tenant in the run-down ramshackle of a room that Tessa has now occupied - and is now roaming the country, dancing in deserts and signing sufi ghazals.

In the dusty room that she's taken on, Tessa gets her hand on a graphic novel called 'The First Night' and starts to obsess over this imaginary ghost - trickles of his life laid out in pieces before her through the caricatures of the people whose life he has touched ( And spread happiness, a Charlie Chaplin philosophy that this Charlie truly believes in!) It's a jigsaw puzzle she wants to put together - and get to meet this enigmatic flighty do-gooder. The chase and her ultimate redemption of her own identity crisis that ends with this chase is what the movie is about.

It's a taut script and there is never a dull moment throughout this two-hour movie, a refreshing take on a light love-story which really shines through the stellar performance of Dulquer Salman in the titular role. He's maturing with every movie of his - and with this one, he never really gets carried away. Handling the role of the do-gooder hippie with the golden heart is done with part detachment and a lot of aplomb. Rivaling him in every frame, is Parvathy who again proves how effortlessly she slips into the skin of any new character and brings it out alive on the screen. A great talented find for the industry, I say. Ably supported by every single side-character the movie brings forth. Nedumudi Venu as usual, is effortless in his role of Kunjappan - a carefree old man living out his days in an old-age up in the hills. He forms an important catalyst in bridging that love between Tessa and Charlie.
Soubin Shaheer deserves a call-out for a wonderful performance as the confused thief who stumbles upon the crazy Charlie in one of his moods and gets swept up in a night adventure that forms a crucial part of the story. So does Chemban Vinod, cementing his rising popularity among the Kerala cinegoers with his brilliant acting. There are powerful cameos by Kalpana, KPAC Lalitha as well.

The cinematography really sets the tone for the movie - Be it the spectacular visuals of the blue backwater lagoons of Kerala or the lazy purling mists covering the lovely tea-estates of a sleepy hill-station or the colorful constructs of a make-believe bohemia in the backstreets of Fort Kochi. And the background score by Gopi Sundar is pretty much spot-on. There are at least three songs from this movie that I am going to listen on a loop.

All in all, a slightly different movie aimed at the new generation - a generation that would identify with both the man who doesn't want to be tied down by titles or responsibilities and wants to be that free bird, spreading his wings and happiness - as well as the obsessed girl out to find her groove in this world gone stale and instead chases a flighty ghost entirely made up of her own imaginary ideas of the 'ideal'. Now I don't necessarily agree with either of these characters. I think Charlie is an escapist, running away from who he is. Will these adventures on the road help him find himself? The girl is so wound up in her 'ideas' of that perfect stranger that she's giving up on any solid foundations to her life. Maybe she can afford to do so, as she is anyways a rich and spoilt brat and always can fall back upon her rich family at the times of need. In a bid to bring out more pieces of the puzzle, director Martin and scriptwriter Unni R bring out a lot more 'cameo' characters who serve no purpose other than fueling the over-active imagination of the crazy girl in search of the mysterious djinni in her life.

But unless one is foolish and brave enough to step out of that circle of comfort, you don't find the truths about yourself, right? Charlie is a brave movie - that forces you to step out of that circle of comfortable cinema you've grown up with. Martin Prakat's flighty untethered love-story soars up, searching for meaning. Forcing you to acknowledge that today, we aren't really concerned about job security and familial bonding - but are more keen to go along with our shifting identities, hone up our creative energies and be a pilgrim for the rest of our lives. This movie is a very close and true representation of the times we live in. 

No comments: