In light of two movies which reminded me of it recently, I decided to revisit a film I loved at the time and the review I wrote for it then. Charlie, made by Martin Prakkat of the recently released grimly brilliant film Nayattu, and remade into Tamil as Maara with Madhavan (I haven’t seen that one yet though). The review is from 2016, the year in which I saw this visually stimulating masterpiece. It was recently that I also got to know that the movie was a bit of a rage in Japan too.
Charlie is a shout out to the inner spirit within us straining to get out of its self-imposed restraints, a joyous call to the wild and free. This is not as much a movie of strong plot line as a palette of fresh colors and exuberance, at the center of which are two characters unrelenting in their search for meaning in the disorderly and their sheer rejection of the order which familiar society tries to impose on them.
The story? We have Tessa, played by a luminous Parvathy escaping from the confined environs of her extended family (and from a job in Bangalore), especially her mother, who want to impose order and compliance onto her supposed wayward lifestyle by getting her betrothed to one of the present party. She ends up in a ramshackle rented room in one of the less savory parts of Kochi, and is captivated by the fascinating remnants of the life of the previous occupant (Dulqar Salman) of the place. As she tries to trace this seemingly almost mythical presence, she gets further emotionally drawn into this kindred spirit who appears to have perfected the art of living for anecdotal episodes of an unpredictable life, while at the same time leaving a mark with his humanity on the lives he has touched.
The episodes with disparate characters are wonderfully captured. There is the thief who tries to break into his place, but who ends up being accompanied by Charlie on a night of unpredictability. The young woman whose life is indelibly influenced by Charlie also has a poignant tale to tell, while the long suffering Kunjappan (Nedumudi Venu) may hold the key to the hopeful final meeting of the two. The story arc involving Kalpana is another touching and bittersweet portion of the movie which endears all the characters to us. This is one of my favorite Malayalam films of the year and also one of the best pairs I’ve seen in a while, though the actual number of scenes in which they are together is quite few. The climactic reveal amidst the vibrant colors and pomp of the Thrissur pooram is delightfully handled, and this is one movie where a sequel may be genuinely warranted, if only to see where these characters end up.
Speaking of which, Parvathy finally seems to be holding up her end of the bargain and finally fulfilling the immense promise she showed from her Notebook and City of God days. Here she captures the viewers as the throbbing heart of the movie and wins us over. Dulqar Salman as the titular character also exudes some great screen presence and has great chemistry with Parvathy. The supporting cast too is flawless, and adds on to make this one of the best movies of the year.