Ram Singh Charlie is careful not to descend into too much sadness even as it shows us the sad reality of the outside world which treats clowning as a not-to-be-taken-seriously job, and short people as permanent butts of pathetic jokes.
Ram Singh Charlie movie cast: Kumud Mishra, Divya Dutta, Akarsh Khurana, Farrukh Seyer, Sharib Hashmi
Ram Singh Charlie movie director: Nitin Kakkar
Ram Singh Charlie movie cast: Three stars
The death of the circus is something we have seen in our times. A live entertainment option, full of magic and fun, when there was little else, was what the circus offered: as we started turning more and more towards easy on-the-tap entertainment at home, there were less and less takers for the big top, and the lion tamers and the trapeze artists and, yes, the clowns.
Ram Singh (Mishra), whose ‘circus name’ is Charlie, knows of no other life. When Jango Circus closes overnight, he is catapulted into the real world, with his pregnant wife (Dutta) and son. How will this man, who has no other skills, survive? The film was made in 2018, and its arrival in these times gives it an immediacy and poignancy, mirroring the millions of pandemic-struck people struggling with the loss of jobs and self-worth.
Except perhaps for Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker, there have been very few Hindi films made on the inner lives of circus artists. What goes on behind the glitter and the shining lights of the big top? Does the ringmaster’s whip stop cracking? The film gives us a sense of the close ties of circus people, who live wandering lives, pitching their tents wherever they find space, from one town to another. The performances are all credible: from the short-haired female owner of the circus who loves her people but cannot stop the inevitable, to the other characters: nice to see Divya Dutta getting a part where she can be her natural self, and Mishra, who usually gets supporting parts, lift a film on his own.
The film is careful not to descend into too much sadness even as it shows us the sad reality of the outside world which treats clowning as a not-to-be-taken-seriously job, and short people as permanent butts of pathetic jokes. Potential employers push Charlie around, expecting him to wear heavy costumes in the extreme heat and humidity of Kolkata without a drop of water: patrons are happy to laugh at the antics of Jenny the Hen, the comic character Charlie plays, but exhibit no empathy for the human in the costume.
Good to see an unexoticized Kolkata, where Charlie and his family, as well as his compatriots are left looking for livelihood: there is only a passing scene in which a pujo idol is shown. There is an occasional predictable turn of events, a too sudden change of heart on the part of a character, and the idea of following your dreams regardless of difficulties underlined more than once. But Ram Singh Charlie stays pretty much on point with its gentle messaging: optimism and a never-give-up spirit is the only way we can survive.