Film: Ramsingh Charlie
Cast: Kumud Mishra, Divya Dutta, Salima Raza, Akarsh Khurana, Surendra Rajan, Lilliput, Rohit Rokhade, Farrukh Seyer, KK Goswami
Director: Nitin Kakkar
Rating: 4 Moons
With the advent of television, malls and other recreational options, the death of the circus is something that we have seen with our own eyes. A live entertainment option, full of magic, animals doing tricks and clowns trying to elicit laughter through their funny tropes was what circus was all about. However, the animals were prohibited and the daredevilry of the trapeze artists gave way to more easy on-the-tap entertainment at home and at air-conditioned recreational facilities. Nitin Kakkar’s Ramsingh Charlie shows the same predicament and highlights the struggles of an out-of-work circus performer after the Jango Circus closes overnight.
Ramsingh Charlie stars Kumud Mishra, Divya Dutta, Salima Raza, Akarsh Khurana and Surendra Rajan in the lead roles. It evokes Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker as well as Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zamin but not overtly. They are intrinsically embedded in the narrative. The film had a delayed release but its arrival in these pressing times when the pandemic-struck people are struggling with jobs and self-worth is deeply poignant and on point.
There have been precious little films made on the inner lives of circus artists and the nomadic life that they lead. Ramsingh Charlie gives us a sense of the close ties of the circus people who live wandering lives and pitch tents wherever they find space from one town to another. Kumud playing the role of Ramsingh whose ‘circus name’ is Charlie leads the star cast from the front. He has the entire film to himself. He brings the titular Chaplin impersonator to life with aplomb. His grief and his helplessness as the circus he was born into shuts down is endearing and heartwrenching. He is keenly aware of his predicament yet is unwilling to dilute his art for quick returns. Mishra, whom we have generally seen in supporting roles, unleashes his full artistic ability in Ramsingh Charlie and manages to prove what a class act he is. He shoulders the film emphatically and manages to strike a chord with his touching performance.
Mishra’s powerful and enigmatic performance is matched to perfection by Divya Dutta who plays the role of Ramsingh’s wife Kajri and fellow performer. She is his support and inspiration and shines through in a role that comes natural to her. She alternates between anguish and confusion, positivity and euphoria and manages to portray every emotion credibly and with authenticity.
Salima Raza as the circus owner ‘Masterji’ is also impressive as she makes way for her son Nabeel (Akarsh Khurana) who has no interest in keeping the loss making circus afloat. Akasrsh plays the hard-nosed businessman who kills the circus without any remorse whatsoever. Surendra Rajan as the violin player and Lilliput and KK Goswami as the other two clowns are credible as supporting cast. Rohit Rokhade as Chintu, Charlie’s and Kajri’s son is also impressive as he hopes to follow his father’s footsteps. Farrukh Seyer as Charlie’s friend in the city is also pretty impressive.
The film is careful not to stoop to the level of becoming too dreary and sad for general liking even though it showcases the morose reality of the mundane outside world that treats clowning as not a serious job and short people as the object of permanent jokes and guffaws. Potential employers push Charlie around with no empathy and inhuman treatment as he is expected to wear heavy costumes in the sweltering heat of Kolkata without a drop of water. They are happy to laugh at his antics but are unwilling to shed any empathy or sympathy for his ordeal.
Ramsingh Charlie also gets brownie points for showing an unexoticized Kolkata where Charlie, his family and companions are left looking for a different way to their livelihood. Besides, showing only one passing instance of a pujo idol the city is thankfully not romanticized and is shown as it is- like any other place where life is difficult and needs to be taken by the horns. There is an occasional predictable turn of events and the old diktat of following your heart but Ramsingh Charlie stays on point with its nerve on the fact that perseverance and never-say-die attitude is the only way to survive in this grim and difficult world.
The film is mounted at a modest scale but makes up for its larger-than-life story. Kakkar manages to keep the film lucid and clear. He manages to put his own spin on the Chaplin film and pays tribute to the comic genius. Despite the screenplay being occasionally uneven and with a rushed ending it still strikes a balance between fairy tales and the stark reality of the grim world. Written by Sharib Hashmi and Kakkar, with a crisp 95 minute run-time Ramsingh Charlie is a must watch.
PeepingMoon.com gives Ramsingh Charlie 4 Moons.