Good idea gone awry. That's the apt way to describe Tigmanshu Dhulia's CHARAS.
Undoubtedly, a subject like this has rarely been attempted on the Hindi screen. Of course, there was CHARAS [Dharmendra, Hema Malini] and HARE RAMA HARE KRISHNA [Dev Anand, Mumtaz, Zeenat Aman], but the addictive drug was just one of the issues in the film.
In CHARAS, the film begins with charas and ends with a bloodbath in the valley, where charas is manufactured. Sure, it requires guts to attempt a film on an offbeat theme like this. But how one wishes Tigmanshu wouldn't have bowed down to commercial diktats and made a khichdi in the process.
An English boy, Sam Higgins [Adam Bedi], a student of Botany, disappears from Himachal one day.
His parents being well connected in the political circles manage to send an Indian cop from the Scotland Yard, Dev [Jimmy Shergill], to India for investigation.
A minister in England, another minister in Delhi [Jehangir Khan] and an ex cop [Irrfan Khan] are the three pillars of the trade.
An Indian cop [Uday Chopra] is assigned the duty to keep a watch on Dev. Both become friends without revealing their true identities to each other. As Dev gets closer to his answers, he is implicated as a Pakistani spy. The Indian counterpart has orders to arrest him.
Circumstances motivate both men to go up to the mountains where the actual crime is being committed and find the answers.
The problem with CHARAS clearly lies in its scripting. Instead of concentrating on one track, CHARAS unfolds multiple stories as it moves ahead. Resultantly, a few sub-plots impress, while the remaining ones stand out like sore thumbs.
A competent storyteller, Tigmanshu the director is letdown by Tigmanshu the writer. The film starts off well - the characters are well defined, the setting [Kasol, near Kullu-Manali] gives the film an authentic feel, the goings-on move at a brisk pace - and the viewer is completely hooked on to a world that he may have heard about, but not witnessed. So far, so good!
So, where do things go haywire? Walk in the two leading ladies - Namrata Shirodkar and Hrishitaa Bhatt. While the characters of the men [Irrfan, Jimmy, Uday] are well defined, there's a problem with the characters the ladies portray.
Namrata is meant to be a journalist, but does nothing to expose the shady dealings in the valley. Hrishitaa claims to be a school teacher but turns out to be an accomplice of drug dealers. Tigmanshu hasn't worked enough to justify their characterization and if at all he did work, the roles don't come across as convincingly on screen. Even the romantic track [Jimmy-Namrata, Uday-Hrishitaa] is haphazard and poorly worked upon.
Another glaring flaw lies in its post-interval portions. The flashback portions take the film to a new high. The reason that prompts an honest cop to become a law breaker is told with amazing flair and maturity.
But the moment the flashback ends and the heroes [Jimmy, Uday] decide to go in search for their answers, the pace starts dropping alarmingly. To be honest, the entire Afghanistani episode appears forced in the narrative. Their motive of destroying the Indians responsible for the death of the Italian drug dealer also doesn't come across too well.
Also, one fails to understand what actually prompts Irrfan to commit suicide. In fact, this is in sharp contrast to his character. He had the guts to speak against the government machinery when he was being felicitated and move over to the other side of the fence, becoming a drug dealer with a worldwide network. Surely, he couldn't be such a coward suddenly!
Tigmanshu does deserve marks for attempting a daringly different subject, but he should've ensured that the narrative is as simple as possible. Incorporating multiple tracks in a film is alright as long as you remember to give a proper culmination to every sub-plot in the finale, but in this case a few questions remain unanswered till the very conclusion.
In a film like CHARAS, there's no scope for the song and dance routine. Yet, Raju Singh's musical score is fairly arresting thanks to the Namrata and Hrishitaa tracks. Cinematography [Setu] is outstanding. Not only are the locales of North India bewitching, Setu's lens also captures them with amazing results. Dialogues [Tigmanshu Dhulia] are fantastic. The confrontations between Irrfan and the Afghani [Varun Badola] are well penned and well executed. Action [Allan Amin] is first-rate, especially the chase in Delhi [flashback].
CHARAS belongs to Irrfan Khan. The actor surprises you yet again with a performance that deserves an ovation. After HAASIL and MAQBOOL, this is yet another performance that the actor will be remembered for.
Jimmy Shergill seems to be getting comfortable with the camera with every film, getting more and more natural with every release. Uday Chopra is inconsistent - at times competent, at times not in complete form.
Both Namrata Shirodkar and Hrishitaa Bhatt don't really get much scope. In a brief role, Varun Badola does justice to his character. Kabir gets a few scenes and he does leave an impression in those. Anoop Soni is wasted in an insignificant role. Farid [Rohit Bal lookalike] is appropriate.
On the whole, CHARAS is a half-baked product that disappoints. At the box-office, the film will face rough weather!