The film is said to be inspired by G Aravindan’s 1978 Malayalam classic Thampu. I must confess to not having seen the original and now curious to get there. However, minutes into the presentation, the style and the flow, and you know where filmmaker Nithin Kakkar comes from — not mainstream Bollywood, for sure.
What works wonderfully in favour of the film is its sense of balance. There is a sense of failure but also a spirit of fight and hope. Not too brooding nor too cinematically optimistic.
The film deals with the death of an industry. While in such a scene most would be tempted to go over-the-top and scream as if it were top media house talk show, the filmmaker sheds the usual props, even angst beyond a point and lays out a simple human drama of the central character Ram Singh who is Charlie the Joker.
The grand old lady of Jango Circus (Salima Reza) has her passion in place but is in “resign mode” and her son Nabeel (Akarsh Khurana) is in no commercial mood to keep the business going. To him, the circus is a white elephant. The dreams of the employees comes crashing and everyone connected with the business and the art see their worlds crashing without a whimper.
Central to this tragedy is the Joker Charlie (Kumud Mishra) who is robbed not just of the means to live but also the very essence of his life. Obviously, his wife Kajri (Divya Dutta) and son Chintu are also swept by the torrent. Kajri is also expecting her second child. In fact, the film begins with Chintu the Joker on belting the Bard’s declaration from As You Like It: “All the world’s a stage, And all the mend and women merely players… They have their exits and their entrances, and in his lifetime a man will play many parts…”.
Charlie has to now come to terms with the new reality and look for an alternative source of employment. Even as he sends his wife to the village for her delivery, he becomes a rickshaw puller on the streets of Kolkata. He then sets about with passion to reconstruct a new circus assisted by newfound friend Shahjahan (Farrukh Seyer). The movie then takes off towards an interesting finale.
The film is short. Perhaps a tad too short and could have eased towards the finale rather than being vague and abrupt. After all, there is not going to be a Joker Franchise.
Interestingly, the filmmaker gets straight into the narrative and does not waste stock on establishing the characters. From the lady who owns the circus Salima Reza to her son Akarsh Khurana, the characters in the circus function well within the screenplay and the script space.
Divya Dutta gives yet another sedate and steady interpretation of the wife who sees her husband lose his job. Unlike the lady in Choked (Saiyami Kher) or Lootcase (Rasika Duggal), she moves from a predictable stance to an emotive interpretation that is worth mentioning.
The extremely talented Kumud Mishra gets a central role. As a consummate actor, he sure grabs the opportunity with both hands. As an actor it is his natural gait that may well be the undoing. He seems too healthy as he jogs with the rickshaw. The body language fails in an otherwise high emotive range product.
He also interprets the tribulations and the hope with an artiste who has lost his livelihood and his art but not his hope with such sincerity that it not only holds the film together but enriches its texture and makes the film worth the watch.
A character in the film says: “Can you get out of your skin and still be happy?” That exactly is the Bollywood challenge. It has to get out of its dead skin and come alive with some freshness as in this case to ensure credibility over just success.
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