Ram Singh Charlie
Cast: Divya Dutta, Akarsh Khurana, Kumud Mishra
Director: Nitin Kakkar
You can take the performer out of the circus but can you take the circus out of him? That’s one of the questions at the heart of Ram Singh Charlie, in which the wonderful Kumud Mishra gets a role deserving of his talent.
Mishra, who has consistently stood out in supporting parts, most recently as a sincere sub-inspector to Ayushmann Khurrana’s senior cop in Article 15, and as Taapsee Pannu’s supportive father in Thappad, has an Everyman quality that serves this film well. He stars as Ram Singh, a Charlie Chaplin impersonator at a circus in Kolkata, who struggles to make ends meet when the circus shuts down.
Ram Singh, or Charlie as he has come to be known, was born into the circus and knows no life outside it. When the tent is pulled down because it’s no longer sustainable, his kind boss warns him that life in the real world is a bigger circus than the one he has been a part of all these years. He experiences it first hand as he struggles to find a job, a roof over his family’s head, and dignity for his craft.
Mishra imbues Ram Singh with both decency and self-respect. He bristles when people refer to him as a joker, because Chaplin was a true artiste and he regards himself as one too. He asks if he can keep his costume when the circus folds up; his boss says of course he can – it’s hardly a costume, it’s his second skin.
The film is both a bittersweet ode to the artiste, and also a loving postcard to what a circus means to its performers. Its shutdown amounts to the disbanding of a family. We watch as the Chaplin impersonator, the violinist, and the clowns all struggle to find their place in the world when the tent comes down. Once masters of the ring, they’re now mocked as freaks.
Director Nitin Kakkar who has co-written the script with Sharib Hashmi sets up a moving premise. But the film is unsubtle in the way that it tugs at your heartstrings. After failed attempts at finding a job worthy of his skills, Ram Singh becomes a rickshaw puller on the streets of Kolkata.The look on his wife’s face when she discovers how far behind he has left what he loves is heartbreaking. Divya Dutta is solid in the role of his wife, and their little moments together are lovely.
Ram Singh Charlie has its heart in the right place but the screenplay is entirely predictable. Yet the film doesn’t completely derail because the artiste at the center of it anchors it with a performance that is riveting. Like Chaplin, Mishra plays Ram Singh as a man who smiles through his tears and it’s impossible to turn away from that.
This is a sweet film that’s oozing with sincerity. I recommend that you make the time for it.