I’ve always wondered how it would be to roam around carefree impulsively and to listen to the call of my heart. Added with the prospect of living life on one’s own terms, it’s made me wonder how if not for the typical societal norms and the compulsions of having some semblance of stability in life, a lot many more people would be thinking like me. Normally one tends to look down upon the select few lucky people who manage to do this, even going to the extent of calling them escapists. But what if they could afford to do so, or couldn’t care less about how the World perceived them? Oh! How I would cringe every time a certain elder would try to caution me saying, look you can’t be living bindaas anymore, you need to get more responsible. And how happy do I feel now that the tides have changed and that I don’t have to listen to that comment from that person anymore. Having seen Martin Prakkat’s Charlie I can’t but help think along these lines.
Charlie is director Martin Prakkat’s 3rd film (after Best Actor and ABCD: American Born Confused Desi) and it re-unites him with Dulquer Salmaan with whom he has worked earlier in ABCD. Incidentally, both his earlier films have done reasonably at the box office, especially ABCD. Charlie has been talked about thanks to Dulquer’s cool new look in it and also as it brings back the Bangalore Days pair of Dulquer and Parvathy. The music has already been well received and the trailer looked promising, also certainly different from what Martin had attempted earlier. Keeping all these in mind it is no surprise that despite 3 other films releasing alongside for Christmas, Charlie has gone to become Dulquer’s biggest release of his career so far. Hence, I was more than curious to know whether Charlie is worth all the attention it has received so far and if Martin Prakkat delivered a good festival entertainer. So the idea of this post is to look at how I perceive the film now that I’ve seen it.
Charlie (Dulquer Salmaan) is an enigmatic young man, who likes to describe himself as a “Jinn”, someone who keeps moving around and is a free bird in every sense. Tessa (Parvathy) is again someone who loves to live life on her own terms and moves into a very esoteric place to stay in Kochi, where to her dismay she finds that the previous tenant Charlie’s belongings are still lying around. A turn of events sees Tessa starting off by getting curious about Charlie, slowly getting drawn to him as she tries to trace him. No one really seems to be able to know where Charlie could be found. In the process she ends up meeting various people who have encountered Charlie at some point or the other as she continues her journey. It doesn’t take us long to get drawn to the Worlds of Charlie and Tessa, calling them as interesting characters would be an understatement of sorts.
Narrated in a simple yet interesting fashion, Martin Prakkat takes good care in converting Unni.R’s screenplay into a cinematic display on screen. The focus is most certainly on Charlie and Tessa and all the other characters are merely adjuncts in their story. Charlie/Dulquer makes a late entry into the film (some 20 odd minutes later); nevertheless leaving an impact from the time he is introduced. There is an air of mystery around him, accentuated by what various people have to say about him. But thankfully it is never overdone. Tessa on the other hand is an impulsive person, who wouldn’t want even her near and dear ones to influence her decisions. There is something interesting about most of the secondary characters as well, like Neera Mary (Kalpana), the lady whose husband had forced her into the flesh trade and who is now suffering from AIDS. Kunjappan (Nedumudi Venu) a 70 year old ex militaryman, still waiting to meet his childhood love, the street-smart tourist guide (Neeraj Madhav) or the genial thief Sunikuttan (Soubin Shahir), all of them are unique in some way or the other, making the tale even more colourful.
Jomon T.John’s cinematography is wonderful, doing complete justice to the lovely locations present in the film. At a run time of 130 minutes the film is of just about the ideal duration, you don’t have to squirm in your seats, credit to Shameer Mohammed‘s editing which ensures that. The costumes (Sameera Saneesh) and the production design (Jayashree Lakshmi Narayan) also deserve special mention as they lend the film quite an eclectic look. Gopi Sunder’s music works well for the film, the songs are quite easy going on the ears and the BGM is refreshing as well. In terms of the songs (all of them written by Rafeeq Ahamed) the striking “Pularikalo” (vocals by Shakthisree Gopalan and Md.Maqbool Mansoor),the twin versions of the lovely “Puthumazhayi” (one by Shreya Ghoshal and the other by Divya S.Menon) and the funky“Oru Kari Mukilinu” (vocals by Vijay Prakash) more than impress. And of course the haunting “Chundari Penne” (vocals by Dulquer) is something you remember well after the screening is over.
As mentioned already the film has a good supporting cast and despite not having lengthy roles, most of them do leave an impact including Nedumudi Venu, Soubin Shahir and Chemban Vinod. Aparna Gopinath has more of an extended cameo but her character of Dr.Kani is of vital importance to the tale. The film ultimately boils down to Parvathy and Dulquer, as it completely revolves around them. In fact for some people the film may not work for exactly this reason, as this is a simple tale of 2 interesting characters but narrated in a not so regular fashion. My only fear as the narrative kept progressing was that Charlie might end up being shown as someone suffering from a terminal illness, giving that as the catalyst or so for his desire to live his last days on his own terms. Thankfully, Martin Prakkat and Unni. R completely steer clear of that zone, making it a smooth culmination eventually to the story.
It is tough to chose between the main leads in terms of who is better as both Parvathy and Dulquer are impressive in their own ways, lending a lot of charm and grace to the characters of Tessa and Charlie respectively. It’s tough to think of anyone else in their characters, they have indeed done good justice to them. It is nice to see Malayalam Cinema end the year with the story of Charlie and Tessa, certainly encouraging me to look forward to 2016. As the film ends there is no doubt that this is Martin Prakkat’s finest of the 3 films that he has made so far. Charlie is a simple well told tale without any pretense to be overambitious. Unless you are expecting something extraordinary or perhaps in a bad mood maybe, Charlie certainly is a film that should work for just about anybody.