What do you write about a movie that gives you nothing? Not one joke. Not one smile. Nothing for Jackie Shroff to do. We are over a year into a global pandemic, desperate for entertainment. The bar now is so painfully low. And yet, the team of ‘Hello Charlie’ managed to miss it entirely.
M. D. Makwana (Jackie Shroff) is trying to evade jail after defrauding Indian banks out of millions of rupees. His girlfriend Mona (Elnaaz Norouzi) comes up with a creative plan. Makwana in a gorilla suit will be transported to Diu as a circus animal named Toto. From there, they will make their grand escape on a boat. No one will suspect a thing. Naive, careless, unlucky truck driver Charlie (Aadar Jain) is given the responsiblity to drop the gorilla off to the circus. As he begins his long journey to Diu, a plane with a real gorilla crashes, setting the primate loose. Other misadventures involve singing and dancing, a villain with a funny accent, a chess match with a mad doctor, and a goofy forest ranger with a tranquilizer gun. What? Why? How? Not entirely sure.
‘Hello Charlie’ perfectly demonstrates the art of taking a funny concept (Jackie Shroff in a gorilla suit) and sucking all the joy out of it. The dullness of this movie is baffling. I could forgive the inane plot, the absolute absence of logic in the film, if it was entertaining. But it isn’t. None of the jokes land. It’s a little sad at first, but the further you get into the 1 hour 42 minute runtime, the pity turns into annoyance. An unedited clip of Shroff improvising in a gorilla suit would have been a more successful attempt at comedy.
‘Hello Charlie’ features two newcomers. Aadar Jain – the star of the film – does lots of acting and barely any reacting. His performance in each scene seems rehearsed and memorized. From his expressions to dialogue delivery, Jain doesn’t necessarily do anything wrong, but none of it feels right either. He is robotic, unnatural, and tragically unfunny. Shlokka Pandit fares much better in comparison. She doesn’t have much to do, but her performance is significantly more natural and convincing. She has the dance skills and screen presence for the role.
Gratitude to Elnaaz Norouzi for putting energy into her part. At one point she picks up a gun and gives you a glimmer of hope: maybe she will shoot all the characters and finally let us out of this misery? She doesn’t, but her presence is an unexpected pulse in this otherwise lifeless movie. Rajpal Yadav, Bharat Ganeshpure, Darshan Jariwala and Girish Kulkarni try to resuscitate the film, but fail. In their defense, it is a near impossible task.
M. D. Makwana may not have managed to bamboozle the police, but the makers of ‘Hello Charlie’ sure got me. They got me good.