Pitching an entire feature on a solid guy, armed with ruffled beard, printed costumes and a guttural laugh, as he waltzes in and out of the frame at random, is ambitious, and, could’ve been tedious to portray on-screen, but that's a challenge director Martin Prakkat tackles with lyrical finesse.
It's the sort of cinema that takes you on a magnificent fantasy ride, jolting you off your mundane routines, and forcing you to embrace life’s ups and downs wholeheartedly, and with childlike innocence. It’s a life lesson, well taught.
Martin’s canvas is splashed with colour and characters, each helping to unravel the mystery of our eluding hero. A man driven by his own charming idiosyncrasies and golden heart to warrant a movie named after him.
We step into Charlie’s wonderland through Tessa, a girl with a head full of curls and a heart yearning for a life uncompromised by what the society dictates.
After escaping the clutches of her bossy mother she steps into a world bursting with hope and dreams. As she dusts Charlie’s room, left abandoned and filled with his innumerable weird collectibles, she discovers a story that’s left incomplete. Determined to get to the end, she sets on a journey that strangely becomes the start of her own.
Martin unhurriedly lets Tessa chase her story. As she uncovers each chapter, she (and we) discover a life brimming with spunk and heroism.
Martin cleverly pens a non-linear, yet delightful narrative for Unni R’s grand story, keeping his audience just as thrilled, curious and determined as his leading lady. But, the exercise would’ve been futile if he didn’t have frames to match Charlie’s flamboyant life. So, Jomon T John’s brilliance is what essentially holds together Charlie’s pulse.
Parvathy's delightful as the obsessed Tessa, who bravely tackles every hiccup and travels through Kochi’s vivid by-lanes to unearth a treasure she wishes to keep as her own. She's our girl, and we want her to win against all odds. Much of Tessa's triumphs and downfalls are captured so beautifully through Parvathy’s eyes, and therein lies the mark of a great actor.
Then, there’s Kani, played remarkably by Aparna Gopinath, as she struggles to battle her tragedies and warm up to a new life. The other women, KPAC Lalitha as the liberal grandmother and Kalpana as the dreamy Mariya, are equally notable.
The movie, however, belongs to Dulquer Salmaan as he shines and sizzles to lend soul and swagger to the eccentric Charlie. Possibly his career’s most uninhibited act, yet. Every time he bursts into the scene, there’s a deep desire to know more. While much of his life is left untouched by Martin, whatever he chooses to showcase is enough to make him a role model.
Martin also packs in a big male gang, each quirkier, and some wittier, than the other. Of the bunch, Soubin Shahir is outstanding as Sunikuttan, who quietly works the night shift with earnestness, and tickles us silly with his antics. Veteran actor Nedumudi Venu is pitch-perfect as Kunjappan, while Neeraj Madhav surprises as the loyal Ansari. There’s also Chemban Vinod Jose, Ramesh Pisharody, Renji Panicker, Joy Mathew and Tovino Mathew, who gang up to turn this party into a spectacular one.
For purists of Malayalam cinema, there’s a lot of loose-ends that might ruin the fun, but for those who are willing to overlook those cinematic liberties to witness a romance like no other, then this one's for you.