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Ram Singh Charlie Review : An ode to a dying art and its artists !

Saugata Bhattacharya

Social distancing was not a familiar phrase to us till the covid19 pandemic shook the whole world with its hand of darkness but nobody has been able to match up to the speed of light, the light of optimism. But It has obliged us to enjoy our favourite way of delectation through the various counters of OTT platforms. We’re getting the opportunities to dig out some of the hidden gems of the India film industry. And RamSingh Charlie is one of those gems that was kept under the wraps since 2015 and came to Sony LIV after the span of five years.

Filmistaan director Nitin Kakkar’s RamSingh Charlie is a tribute to a dying art called ‘circus’ and a personal ‘thank you’ letter to the unknown artists of it. It delineates the arduous journey of RamSingh (Kumud Mishra) who is even born in the circus, is an impersonator of Chaplin. The story begins from his days of being a part of this irritant art form to the demise of his lifelong dream of his own ‘circus’, followed by the subsequent incidents of struggle, survival and resurrection. RamSingh is an unabated piece of a dilapidated puzzle called Jango Circus whose tickets’ window gets closed, subsequently. Leaving the tiny tent, RamSingh along with his wife, Kajri (Divya Dutta), and son, Chintu sets off for the journey of a far bigger circus called reality. Kumud Mishra who is indisputably one of the most underrated actors in the history of Indian cinema, scores century with the character of a clown whose costume has become his skin. RamSingh is elated but not insolent because of his craftsmanship. He tries to vamoose from his golden memories of circus but shows tricks to school girls just before that. He becomes a raucous Indian man by howling at his wife but feels sorry in the next moment. He prefers laurels over cash, friendship over dream. Kumud Mishra’s effortlessly magical performance makes RamSingh that person whom we meet daily but forget to remember. On the other hand, Divya Dutta’s tacit but powerful portrayal of the supportive wife, Kajri ignites RamSingh to disrobe his fake attire of a daily wager and resurrect as her favourite hero. But the screenplay doesn’t show the survival of Kajti, a pregnant woman, already a mother of one in a village. The other actors including Salima Raza as Masterji, Farrukh Seyer as Shahjahan give a stellar performance which makes the whole film more enjoyable. The affability in the relationship of a senior and his juniors, a stranger and an artist articulates the importance of trust and love in a world where hatred is the burning desire.

Nitin Kakkar and Sharib Hashmi’s screenplay focuses on the journey of RamSingh, without giving any prime space and layer to the supporting characters. But it becomes scattered in the second half where the structure falls into the tawdry trap of dreamy Bollywood. But eventually it lands into a safe but overwhelming ending. The heart of the film resides in its beautifully written dialogues. The 1 hr 37min. long script gets a sudden speed in the second half in order to cut its duration which makes its editor, Sachindra Vats’ work more sharp and crispier. Urvi Ashar and Shipra Rawal’s art direction fervently blends with the texture of the film which gets captured in some of the best frames of this year, by Subhranshu Das and Madhav Salunke. They bring out the reality of life from the city of joy with the assistance of a fantastic sound designing by Arun Nambiar. Payal Asher’s eye for detail is beautifully showcased in RamSingh’s lungi-gamcha(Lungi-towel) and Kajri’s trousers. Prashant Kamble has actually nothing to do except the necessary as all of the characters are in normal make up. Siddharth Mahadevan, Soumil Shringarpure and Qaran Mehta has actually scored some of the beautiful tunes which makes the dramatic and non-dialogue sequences more impelling. But Arijit Datta’s music is easily forgettable except Ratiya which befits the situation of their struggle.

Nitin Kakkar is a director who weaves the canvas of reality with an edible story. His sensible direction and sensitivity of characters made of nothing but flesh and blood makes his films more relatable to the audience. In this film, Kakkar uses mirrors to reflect the poignant beauty of reality, the tormenting agony of suffocation and detachment. The loopholes in the script may get recouped by the creamy performances by all the actors. RamSingh Charlie is not only about the frivolous actions of a clown in a circus, it’s more about the universal circus called life and its artists. One can feel the slightest reverberation of Mera Naam Joker and The Greatest Showman when she/he will step into the world of RamSingh. He falls, fails but fights back. I don’t know whether he wins or not. But, I know that circuses are closed. So are movie theatres, shopping malls. And the workers may not be able to make ends meet. In this baleful time, RamSingh Charlie is a must watch not only because of its outstanding performances on a well written script but of its aroma of optimism.

Ram Singh Charlie now streaming on Sony LIV.

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Alternate Take

A space for reviews, retrospectives, analyses, interviews around all things cinema, standing left of the field.