There is an essential goodness to the new film Charlie, starring Dulquer Salman.
Not fitting into any genre, as its director Martin Prakkat says, the film has touched people at different levels. “I have been receiving a number of calls, and several of them were by people who said the film instilled a newfound hope in them. There was a girl who said she is ‘the Charlie’ and a person who was suffering from depression saying the film helped him find solace,” says Martin.
A photographer turned director, Martin is just three films old, and Charlie is undoubtedly his most accomplished work to date. Tackling the story of Charlie, a man who comes in like the wind and disperses hope and cheer to random strangers, did not conform to cinematic genres. And that is why Martin says he still cannot define a genre for the movie.
“Among the first to call me after the movie were (directors) Priyadarshan and Sathyan Anthikadu,” says Martin. “And the first thing they said is that the toughest part of Charlie was that moment when I made the decision to go ahead with the story and make it into a movie.”
For the hat-trick success, Martin is one unassuming director. He knows his strengths – and his weaknesses – as a director, and so when he speaks about the adulation his movie has received and of the congratulatory calls, there is not an iota of boastfulness. He is stating it as is, as a fact.
His good-natured, down-to-earth outlook could also have been one reason that Martin serves as a magnet for talent. His first film, Best Actor, had Mammootty sign up unconditionally while his second ABCD, starring Dulquer, had a canvas and narrative style that was novel for Malayalam cinema.
It is the effortless chemistry of Martin with his team that also brought tremendous value to Charlie. “Much before technology and all the props, films connected with audiences for the depth of performance by the actors. I still believe in that, and I feel that if you have the right cast for your film, your work is half done.”
Martin cannot but thank his cast including Parvathi, Aparna Gopinath, Chemban Vinod, Nedumudi Venu, Kalpana, Neeraj Madhav and Soubin Shahir, and not least Dulquer, for accommodating their schedules for the movie.
“Dulquer did not commit a movie for a good seven months,” says Martin. “He could have done some three movies for the time he set aside for Charlie. And likewise for every artist, who were happy to be flexible.”
More so, because Martin likes to shoot his films in two-to-three schedules. “I have total respect for people who can work round-the-clock and finish a film in one schedule. But honestly, I just need some breather to clear my mind,” he says.
Among the film’s other highlights are spectacular cinematography by Jomon T John. “We have been friends for long, so there is an instant rapport during the making. On all the 10,000 plus shots, there was never reason for a director-cinematographer confusion. He would nail it even before I explain the scene,” says Martin.
He also had a coup by pulling in Malgudi Shubha for the opening track Akale, a mesmerising track by Gopi Sunder. “We tried several singers before we honed in on Subha. She lifted the song to a different level. The song is also important to the movie as it sets the context about what or what not to expect,” explains Martin.
Martin says the film inspired him, moved him and elated him – not after its completion – but during its writing. “Something clicked in me when R Unni narrated me the story, and when Dulquer said we can go ahead if I was comfortable, Charlie was already made in our minds. That moment was seminal. And then the scripting; sitting with Unni, we lived through every moment of the film – how the characters behave and respond.”
He says he had no deliberate intention to make a feel-good movie. “Our story was the hero – and we did not even really think of how audiences would respond to it. All that we knew was that the film was not being made as a mass entertainer. We knew perfectly well how many percent of the audience would relate to it.”
Martin naturally discounts the first-day observations about the film. But he is genuinely happy that a larger section of the audience – more than he envisaged – found that the film connects to them. “People who could relate to it seem to have just loved it.”
Charlie’s do-gooder outlook to life, his celebration of every moment, his uncanny ability to bring cheer to total strangers, thus, becomes a simple tale – almost like a fairy-tale – that has universal resonance.
In the film, it is unraveled through the eyes Tessa (Parvathy), who chances upon the dustings from his life, and pursues him. For many, who are bound to slavish routines, Charliethus comes across as a maverick, a bohemian, and a one model for their drapetomaniac fancies.
So if you are up for a refreshing change from routine, an escape into a world where there is a man with an indomitable will to make others happy, Charlie is your must-watch.