Cast: Kumud Mishra, Divya Dutta, Farrukh Seyer, Akarsh Khurana, Salima Raza, Rohit Rokhade
Direction: Nitin Kakkar
Rating: * * * (three stars)
By Vinayak Chakravorty
The clown as a tragi-comic icon has been a favourite device of filmmakers to define the quirks of life. From the Raj Kapoor classic Mera Naam Joker in Bollywood to Appu Raja starring Kamal Haasan among other films, numerous instances abound. Dig deeper for a profound subtext, and you would recall the recent Hollywood gem, Joker.
Ramsingh Charlie is about the protagonist Ram Singh who excels in Charlie Chaplin acts, but is forced to eke out a living as a rickshaw puller in Kolkata once the circus that employed him folds up. Kumud Mishra essays the titular role that anchors an uncomplicated story of dreams and despair.
The narrative start off tracing the backstory of Ram Singh who relished his job as Charlie the clown at Jango Circus. The ageing owner Masterji (Salima Raza) makes way for her son Nabeel (Akarsh Khurana), who has no interest in carrying on with the circus because the losses are mounting.
Ram Singh shifts to Kolkata with his pregnant wife Kajri (Divya Dutta) and their young son, who wants to be a star of the circus like his father someday, despite their circumstance. To make ends meet in the big city, Ram Singh pursues multiple jobs. He does the odd birthday gig as Charlie Chaplin when he gets a chance. Mostly, pulling the rickshaw is his source of earning.
A twist of fate reignites his dream one day. Ram Singh realises his reason for existence lies in being Charlie, and not a rickshaw puller. He decides to strive at setting up his own circus, and he finds help in a man named Shahjahan (Farrukh Seyer), whom he befriends upon arriving in Kolkata.
Writer-director Nitin Kakkar was in the news earlier this year for helming the delightful comedy, Jawaani Jaaneman. Ramsingh Charlie is actually a film Kakkar made a few years back when he was still a greenhorn of sorts. The film came in the wake of the accolades he garnered for his debut directorial feature, Filmistaan.
Kakkar's cinematic ambition here is clearly not too complex. He was out entertaining with a human interest fiction piece that imparts a quiet comment or two about life. The film works well as a tribute to the dying art of circus, and to the marginalised artiste whose dream is often trounced upon by the brutal demands of survival.
Despite its creative intentions, the film is bogged down by a treatment that undeniably needed working upon. Kakkar and co-writer Sharib Hashmi needlessly give in to the urge to cater melodrama after a point. What should have remained a gentle, bittersweet watch often tends to reel under soppy execution, particularly in the second half.
Ironic, you realise, because the film draws inspiration from Charles Chaplin, who would invariably turn the dreariest of sorrows into irreverent excuse to laugh out loud at life's foibles.
Ramsingh Charlie is redeemed by its performances. Kumud Mishra leads a powerhouse cast. His metamorphosis from the struggling rickshaw puller to an artiste buoyed by a dream is seamless, as the narrative oscillates between flashback and present. Divya Dutta provides a foil to Mishra's act with a nuanced rendition despite her restricted footage. As Ram Singh and Kajri, along with young Rohit Rokhade as their son, the trio brings alive the film's message without fuss -- never give up, no matter what.
(Vinayak Chakravorty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)