It is one of those unique times when I go to a Bollywood film and I am unable to decipher the plot and twists right till the end. Not only was I pleasantly surprised by Main Aur Charles, I found it mesmerizing. The plot revolves around Charles (Randeep Hooda), an enigmatic con man and a vicious killer. The film chronicles the journey of the man from his days in Thailand to his foray into India where he was captured and he subsequently escaped in style from one of the most heavily guarded prison of our country. The film also brings us the snippets of some of his relationships which include a princess, a law student and a hippie who all contribute to his exploits in some way or the other.
The film begins with showing us snippets of Charles’ life from disconnected timelines. We are not given a clear idea of what is unfolding apart from what sense we can make out on our own. After the initial surge, the film drastically slows down in the next half hour or so as we see Charles indulging in his sexual innuendos and other guilty pleasures which become a little repetitive. We are unable to understand which way the story is headed when something strange happens. He is captured by the police and brought to face a trial. However, communicated through some subtle gestures of Charles and also the way the narrative progresses, we are given a hint that all is not what it seems like.
In the second half, the film connects every dot that it left in the first half and all those confusing sequences now start making perfect sense. Thus the audience not only has the wish fulfillment of understanding Charles’ elaborate plan but also has the added pleasure of being surprised which is extremely difficult to find commodity in Bollywood. Apart from the screenplay, there are many more reasons to revel Main Aur Charles. The cinematography for one is terrific. By that I don’t mean the locales and the eye-catchy composition that we have come to associate with cinematographic brilliance. The visuals of the film were able to capture the mood and essence of the plot. The close-ups, the long shots, the fluid movement off the camera through the topography and also the POV shots showing various entities from Charles’ perspective really work wonders.
The sound design of the film which includes background score, atmospheric sounds and dialog are in perfect sync. I could at many junctures feel the music flowing from one part of the theater to another. The dialog, though limited and less dramatic (not what you expect from Bollywood) are suitably written. That brings me to the performances. Randeep Hooda is brilliant. He is as sexy as he is suave. Initially his accent seemed a bit strange for me primarily for the reason that I know how he sounds, but gradually it sets in and then I was able to relate to the character even more. He looks the part and his cool and calculated performance could just be one of the best performances of the year so far. Giving him more than able company is Adil Hussain, the man who plays the cop Amod Kant. Amod is his nemesis and is exactly the opposite of Charles. They are the two opposite ends of a spectrum.
A word about the three primary girls. Mandana Karimi is the hottest of the lot. I just wish she had a meatier role. Richa Chadda looks dazed and confused of her reverence for Charles and that tingling feeling which would tell her that her man was a murderer and she does well to essay the feeling correctly. Anastasia Fomina as Andrea is formidable but she doesn’t have enough time to make a considerable impact. The film has limited music and whatever little is there is in strong keeping with the plot and screenplay. The editing is superb. The way the first half is built is almost haphazard and at many junctures, I felt that it was just bad editing. However in the second half the film comes together and you give brownie points to the editor for cutting together the sequence in the perfect order and in the best way possible.
Main Aur Charles is a thrilling watch which is bound to engross you. Don’t lose your hopes in the first half. If you do so, it might just end up impressing you a lot more. This is the kind of film which moves at its own pace. Even at two hours, the first half seems a little dragged but wait till you enter the second. The film blows you away with its content, visuals and performances. This is definitely a must watch.