Charles Sobhraj. Boy! Wasn’t his life just waiting to be made into a film?
Sobhraj, famed International serial-killer and suave con-artist was, and still is known by a lot of names and sobriquets.
The Bikini Killer, The Serpent, The Cobra were just some of the few that stuck for so long.
Charles Sobhraj wasn’t an ordinary serial killer. He was confident, multi-lingual, sophisticated, oddly-charming and a complete sociopath. He was a chameleon who could easily disappear into a crowd to find new fodder as well as socialize with the Parisian high society.
So, who was the real Charles Sobhraj? Nobody knows really.
This week’s release ‘Main Aur Charles’ tries to find some answers.
‘Main Aur Charles’ begins in Thailand, with the murder of an American tourist in the sands of Pattaya. What follows is a tricky little film that tries to switch back and forth in time periods, obsessed primarily with Sobhraj’s infamous escape from Tihar. Hypnotic, as one character describes him and oddly-charming as he was, the film however, is hardly any of these.
WOOS: Charles Sobhraj’s real-life escapades deserve no ordinary treatment on screen. The world of sex, sleaze and drugs which Sobhraj built around himself gets an adequate treatment when made into film.
The dizzying camera angles, the psychedelic visuals and the rushed shots, all make ‘Main Aur Charles’ a competently made, and an visually engaging film. The director it seems certainly knows his style, one he shares with a certain Bejoy Nambiar.
Randeep Hooda. Sushmita Sen’s ex has it seems perfected the art of playing disaffected, charming characters (See Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster, if you haven’t). Which is why it is no surprise that he doesn’t disappoint.
A big hats off to how similar Randeep Hooda looks to the real Charles Sobhraj in the film. Right from the coloured shades sitting handsomely on the brow of his nose, to the small smirk he keeps handy at all times, Hooda becomes Sobhraj on screen.
Another shout out to the outstanding background score by Amit Trivedi too. In fact, the score does much better in building some tension than the film ever did.
MEHS: A lot of things actually. Which is a shame really, because at its heart is a riveting story that should have been treated better.
Charles Sobhraj’s story is one with all the elements of a great crime-thriller and yet, the filmmaker chooses to focus on not the meat of the man but, the side dressing.
By focusing primarily on his infamous jail breakouts (One in which he drugged dozens of guards), the film goes around in circles until it comes to the actual breakout itself.
Even when it does however, the film does not steam with suspense or tension but instead, with a drawn out sense of exhaustion. You never get to see what motivated, what drove Sobhraj to do what he did.
And by doing so, this film, perhaps unintentionally chooses to depict him only as a suave, intelligent, jail-breaking con-man instead of the sport-killing sociopath that he was. Randeep Hooda certainly deserved better.
The acting, from the rest of the crew is ordinary, at best. The wonderful Richa Chaddha is reduced to a besotted, dumb law graduate who spends her time spouting lines such as ‘dysfunctional family.’
Adil Hussein, as the lead cop investigating Sobhraj is all huff-and-puff without really doing much. Clearly, he ain’t no Claude Lebel.
Verdict: ‘Main Aur Charles’ has a story worth killing over and yet, it huffs and puffs and stumbles into the mediocrity of its own making. Impressively made, the film falls well short of the man and his life that inspired it. Randeep Hooda deserved better.
I give it a 2.5/5.