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Hello, Randeep Sobhraj

Randeep Hooda shines far brighter than Main aur Charles does

TT Bureau Published 31.10.15, 12:00 AM

Main aur Charles (A)

Director: Prawaal Raman
Cast: Randeep Hooda, Richa Chadha, Adil Hussain, Mandana Karimi, Dijana Dejanovic, Tisca Chopra 
Running time: 124 minutes




He has the face of an angel, but somewhere, I think, the devil crept into his soul — Tran Loang Phun, Charles Sobhraj’s mother, is once said to have said about her infamous son.
In Main Aur Charles, Charles Sobhraj —the man we have known variously as “Serpent” to “Bikini Killer”— creeps slowly into Randeep Hooda, the man playing him in this Prawaal Raman film, and inhabits him completely, and often, uncannily. 

Right from the moment his black Oxfords tapping against each other loom into view as he slowly cruises down the languid Thai backwaters in a canoe to that sinister flair with which he slips on his yellow-tinted glasses and runs his hand through his sleek side-parted hair, Randeep makes Sobhraj so much his own. Every word he speaks — that French-accented English is down pat — to every move he makes — the gait to the side-glance with a smirk playing at the corner of his lips, this is Charles Sobhraj right down to what we have heard and read about him, the enigma that has enchanted the world through decades.

Randeep, who has lived and breathed the character of the master con man for many years now, makes Sobhraj a cool and casual smooth operator, a man who is described in the film as “hypnotic, intelligent, ruthless and brutal”, duping men into doing his bidding and charming the panties off — quite literally — the women he sets his eyes on. 
Randeep, who described Sobhraj to t2 as a “lonely” and “lost child”, has a blast playing him, giving us one of the most uninhibited performances Bollywood has seen in recent times. A hedonist at heart and a con man in his head, Randeep makes Sobhraj a treat to watch — a romantic who promises every woman a night of unending sex in Paris to a child who dances about madly as he watches and rewatches Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, incidentally, Hitler’s favourite film.  

But only if Main Aur Charles was half as good as the man in the middle. Prawaal Raman — the man who started off with the horror fest Darna Mana Hai and gave us the vastly underrated Tusshar Kapoor-starrer Gayab — makes his film so stylish and slick that it often overpowers substance. Main Aur Charles is a classic example of over-ambitious storytelling where Raman, employing a rewind-flash forward technique, jumps through so many timelines that it often confuses the viewer instead of engaging him. 

Playing out at a little over two hours, Main Aur Charles opens in 1968 Thailand where a series of bikini-clad foreign tourists wash up ashore after being strangled. The prime suspect is Charles Sobhraj, who evades the law and travels the world on multiple passports. Seven years later, he is in India and manages a daredevil escape from a group of policemen who land up at his doorstep.
Cut to 11 years later — 1986 in Delhi and the year in which the film’s action takes place — and we have Charles executing an audacious escape once again in broad daylight — this time from Tihar Jail, after serving spiked custard to 178 guards and fellow inmates. 

Raman spends all of Half One over-selling his protagonist — there are too many shots of Charles billowing smoke rings in the dark as his mind ticks, too many instances of him hypnotising women into sleeping with him and too much of him showing the viewer what a cool customer he is. Raman’s obsession with his material is evident and Main Aur Charles often becomes an exercise in over-indulgence, as the filmmaker spends many a precious minute on sub-plots that make little sense — like the time Charles spends doing absolutely nothing in Goa — to characters like Bigg Boss contestant Mandana Karimi, who flit in and out of the screen. Even Richa Chadha, playing a law student hopelessly in lust with Charles, is wasted in a half-baked role.

It’s only post-interval that the action moves forward from being one-dimensional and gives another character equal footage — top cop Amod Kanth (played superbly by Adil Hussain) who almost becomes obsessed with getting even with Sobhraj. “You exist because of me,” Sobhraj challenges him with a smile and the last 30 minutes of Main Aur Charles become a delicious watch as you root for one over another — and it’s not always Amod Kanth — in this game of one-upmanship.
Even then, Main Aur Charles doesn’t become the film it should have been. It’s all there — the interest and the intrigue, the sex and the story. And, of course, Randeep Hooda in a performance like no other. A performance that deserved a better film. 



Priyanka Roy
I loved/hated Main Aur Charles because.... Tell









Kunal Kemmu is Guddu, a washing powder salesman in Calcutta who has a soft spot for the boudis he sells his wares to. A Casanova who flits from one sexual relationship to another, Guddu wakes up one morning to find that his ‘gun’ (the film’s codeword for you-know-what) has turned into solid gold! The sex comedy directed by Shantanu Ray Chhibber and Sheershak Anand — shot all over Calcutta, from Howrah to Hazra, Salt Lake to Shyambazar — also stars model-turned actress Aparna Sharma. Tolly actress Payel Sarkar also features in a meaty role.

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