Ramsingh Charlie (SonyLiv)
Starring Kumud Mishra, Divya Dutta
Directed by Nitin Kakkar
Rating: **** (4 stars)
Just the sheer joy of watching two of Indian cinema’s most underrated, underused actors playing the lead is reason enough to embrace this heartwarming film about a circus performer who specializes in doing Chaplin impersonations, suddenly out of work.
The theme of art as supposed to a regular steady income runs across the 90-minute film with surefooted anxiety. A sense of poverty panic guides the plot and yet Kumud Mishra in his career-defining roles, doesn’t allow the film to plunge into any kind of mawkishness or melodrama.
Mishra is the kind of rare actor who can lift even the most mundane scene and transform it into something special. The only actor I can think of who possesses this ability is Sridevi.
Kumud Mishra’s affinity to Sridevi’s Chaplin act from Mr India comes bubbling to the surface in the most unexpected moments. He creates a character who wants to fly but instead finds himself plying the rickshaw in the bustling streets of Mumbai(first Adil Hussain in Pareeksha, now Kumud, Kolkata never had it so much talent on the road before) fettered to workadays worries, a wife(the hugely supportive Divya Dutta) a teenage son and another little one on the way.
Chaplin can go fly a kite!
Mishra’s lengthy one-man Chaplin act in a moment of desperate self-assertion where he slowly smears on a paint mask on his deeply saddened face and then smiles the wistful smile I’ve seen since City Lights, is a masterclass in acting.
Give this actor the National awards, please. He deserves it, and more. Much more. Divya Dutta, though restricted by space, is brilliant in her own right, creating as she does moments with her co-star that define their deep empathy as a couple struggling to make the ends meet.
The other remarkable performance comes from theatre actor Farrukh Seyer as Ramsingh’s friend in need. As the friend who funds the hero’s needs and eventually pulls the rug from under the dreamer’s feet, Seyer lives every moment of his character’s shifty morality.
The cast is uniformly brilliant. The problem that creeps up on this affectionate homage to life at the fringes, is the circus portions. Though they are done affectionately they lack freshness and vibrancy. The situations and characters—dedicated circus owner, her avaricious son, circus performers reduced to ridicule and manual jobs—seem to be designed to serve the bleeding-heart conscience keepers club.
I suspect this film would not be half of what it is if it were not for Kumud Mishra. See the film for his performance and you will come away with some truly heartwarming moments which will help you overlook the clunky direction that surfaces once in a while.