BOTTOM LINE: A Nostalgic Tribute to a Dying Art
|Platform: SonyLIV||Genre: Drama|
Skin and swear: No instances of strong language and on-screen intimacy
What Is the Story About?
Shutters are down at Jango Circus, now bankrupt, bringing an abrupt closure to the legacy of entertainers who’ve provided joy to Bombay for decades. The next generation has taken over and newer forms of entertainment have emerged to leave the fate of the circus company hanging in the balance. Hundreds of circus artistes are rendered jobless, forced to stare at a bleak future. Charlie, the clown in the troop, wears a new identity as Ramsingh, reduced to a ‘joker’ in real life, turning a rickshaw puller for livelihood. Barely making his ends meet, he is in two minds about staying in touch with the artiste in him. The tales of his counterparts are no different. Is there any hope for sunshine at all?
Kumud Mishra’s Chaplin-esque act as a vulnerable family man with a heart of gold is one among his career-best performances that peels through the many layers of the role with immense subtlety. Divya Dutta in the shoes of a wife who holds up a mirror to the transformation of her husband from time to time is fabulous. Akarsh Khurana as the devilish, money-minded businessman, Salima Raza as the old-time owner of the circus company do justice to their parts in the limited screen time. Surendra Rajan is extremely impactful as the good-hearted violinist and the child-actor Rohit Rokhade is aptly cast.
Ramsingh Charlie starts on a precarious note, when the circus clown and the film’s protagonist Charlie (named after Chaplin?) is heartbroken about bidding a farewell to a circus company he once considered home. ‘Baahar isse bada circus hai’, cautions its owner, reluctantly bidding him goodbye. The film reflects the fragility of an art form and the tireless struggles, sacrifices of artistes to hold onto it. There couldn’t have been a better way to commence the film than William Shakespeare’s words that never lose their sheen – ‘All the world’s a stage.’
The title bears testimony to the identity struggle of the protagonist between being Ramsingh, the rickshaw puller and Charlie, the clown. After doing odd jobs trying to fend for his family comprising a pregnant wife and a young son, he finds solace in being the rickshaw puller and ends up making a good living out of it. There are lovely parallels associated with this – where the rickshaw is visualised as a metaphor that helps him literally ‘run’ his family. Ramsingh stays at a dilapidated house that has a royal architecture, resembling how his identity/legacy as a circus artiste appears to be falling apart.
There’s a beautiful sequence where the protagonist shows how much he misses his profession by donning white and black paint all over his face from the very bottle that’s used to write the registration number for his rickshaw. For his earlier profession, he dons the avatar of a chicklet to entertain people, suggestive of how he’s become a puppet of the corporates in the bargain for livelihood. How about the sequence where the father and son appear together for a fancy dress competition? A fantastic voice-over rings in a bunch of heartrending lines about a father reliving his childhood through his son and the latter being happy to remain under his shadow. Ramsingh Charlie is full of many such excellently visualised sequences.
The father isn’t always portrayed as a saintly figure and is shown to be very capable of taking hasty decisions too. The wife, who is more or less at the receiving end, is an emotional anchor to his journey. There are dwarfs from the circus company who are humiliated regularly while discharging their duties as security guards, whereas a mute man from the company takes up the job of a cleaner. The filmmaker Nitin Kakkar makes no bones in discussing the pathetic situation of circus artistes across several corners of the country.
A pitfall for a film of this nature is that it sympathises too much with its subject and the objectivity goes for a toss. Only two kinds of people exist in this world – either money-minded, frivolous people who give two hoots for legacy or those who go to any length to help their counterparts and fight for their art. There’s no complexity in the characterisation at all. Provided you view this as a film that explores the intricate relationship between art and the artiste, Ramsingh Charlie may work for you. Make no mistake, the film’s emotional beats work big time and some portions leave you teary-eyed, yet somewhere, the execution is too simplistic and a strong alternative perspective is absent. It’s a film you’ll appreciate for the honesty in the storytelling and the performances, but deep down, Ramsingh Charlie was capable of more.
Music and Other Departments?
Composers Troy Arif and Arijit Datta add a lot of value to the nostalgic portrayal of an art form that’s struggling to stay alive, through their tracks that encompass a wide range of emotions and a background score that’s reflective and doesn’t spoon-feed the mood of the situation. Cinematographers Subranshu Das and Madhav Salunkhe navigate through the narrow lanes of Mumbai, showcasing the disparity between the modern and the old in several ways, paying a colourful tribute to the stage and complementing the intentions of the filmmaker beautifully.
The 97-minute narrative takes time to grow on you and a shorter duration could have proven to be more impactful for the result. Sharib Hashmi and Nitin Kakkar bring together many sparkling moments with their writing but could have done way better had their approach to the subject been more distant and objective.
Sparkling execution at places
Its inability to look at its subject more practically
Could have been shorter (despite the 97-minute duration)
Did I Enjoy It?
Will You Recommend It?
Ramsingh Charlie Review by Binged Bureau
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