Movie Review: MAIN AUR CHARLES (2015) – A Well Made Bio-Pic Of A Charming Murderer
Randeep Hooda is arguably one of the hardest working actors in Bollywood, yet he’s never been shown any mainstream love. Time and time again he has proven his acting capabilities and range, however, despite it all, commercial success always seems to be at an arm’s length. Digressing from my bitterness regarding this, Hooda’s latest film is an impressive thriller based on real life events.
Read on for my Spoiler-free Review of ‘Main Aur Charles’, and join me as I fanboy about Hooda. Somewhat.
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Based on the real life murderer and psychopath Charles Sobhraj, ‘Main Aur Charles’ follows the meteoric rise to fame of a captured con-man and killer, as he uses his charms and seduction to enter the hearts of his victims, captors and even the legal system itself. The story is told from the perspective of Amod Kant, (Adil Hussain) the officer in charge of Charles‘ capture after his escape from prison, the first time.
The titular Charles, a half Vietnamese and half Indian raised in France, is played by Randeep Hooda, to perfection. As Brad Pitt proved in ‘The Devil’s Own’, accents are hard. So to have an Indian actor play a role that requires a moderately thick French accent when delivering lines in both Hindi and English, is mighty impressive. Especially when he does it convincingly, which is kind of the entire point.
The film opens with some jarring sequences of images of different places, over different times showing murders and other events unfolding at a confusing pace with some very abrupt editing. It’s established through the narration that Charles is a con man and murderer preying on tourists in the 1980’s, presumably with that silky smooth accent, and leaving a trail of corpses in his wake.
The film essentially details one specific time in Charles‘ life when he escaped from prison, and the man hunt that ensued, catapulting Charles to fame and celebrity status, due to his charisma and creating a demand for his story by charging for interviews, and film and book rights to this story. Probably how this film was made in the first place.
The man manipulated everyone around him for his own personal benefit. These accomplices turned victims included a British tourist Richard, (Alexx O’Neil) an idealistic Law student, (Richa Chadda) a corrupt and hapless warden (Vipin Sharma) and a princess, of all things.
The story is compelling, mostly due to Hooda’s performance of Charles who can be as charming as he is ruthless, never thinking twice about killing someone. His every step is cold and calculated, as if nothing happens around him in a manner that he did not plan.
Adil Hussain’s cop Kant is the perfect counterbalance in this cat and mouse game, as he is frequently frustrated, astounded and overwhelmed by Charles‘ blatant schemes and his ability to brainwash his victims so completely. While Charles remains polite and level headed, Kant is angered by his actions. It’s a great dynamic, and I only wished we had seen more interaction between the two characters.
The movie isn’t without its flaws however. The editing would be the most glaring thing about it. The story jumps back and forth between multiple time periods in a non-linear and non-sequential manner. The way in which the scenes are edited together, especially the aforementioned opening sequence, is confusing and very jumbled.
The director himself, Prawaal Raman, getting his start with Ram Gopal Varma (who also, coincidentally launched Randeep Hooda in ‘D‘) shows his relative inexperience, as the execution of the time jumps are confusing. Especially given that there are no visual signs of the different time periods; like Charles’ clothing or hair being different, looking visibly aged or otherwise.
Despite its obvious problems, Main Aur Charles’ is an intriguing film, carried through solely on the backs of its performers. Both Hooda and Hussain steal the scene whenever they’re on camera, and Chadda is strong and powerful despite playing an idealistically naive young woman. While not the typical Bollywood movie, it’s worth a watch for a different kind of thriller, and one of the rare Bollywood bio-pic that isn’t about someone who did great deeds, but rather, the complete opposite.
What are your thoughts on Randeep Hooda’s performance, in this movie or in general?
Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter @theshahshahid