Director: Pankaj Saraswat
Written by: Pankaj Sarawat and Abhishek Khairkar
Edited by: Chandan Arora and Mitesh Soni
Cinematography: Andre Menezes
Starring: Aadar Jain, Jackie Shroff, Elnaaz Norouzi, Shloka Pandit
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
Make no mistake, we all reach this point. A point where we reflect on the choices we’ve made, the decisions we’ve taken, the life we’ve lived and the paths we’ve taken that have somehow led us to this precise moment of introspection. For some, it might be when the waiter refuses to pour them another drink in a seedy bar post a messy divorce, or when the ATM machine spits back their debit card in second-hand embarrassment. For others, it might be while watching a movie during a global pandemic starring Jackie Shroff prancing around in a gorilla suit at the back of a truck that, at one point, is hijacked by an evil Gujarati circus owner whose circus features an item song as its main act.
The makers of Hello Charlie might like to have us believe that theirs is a harmless children’s film. If I were a child, however, I’d be starting a movement against adult filmmakers who try to justify inanity by dedicating it to infants. (If I were a monkey, I’m already Caesar at the end of Rise of the Planet of the Apes.) What kid watches a movie in which a circus has horny men leering at a young woman dancing for them? I suspect I’m better off not knowing the answer. I’d also imagine that Kong and the protective gorilla from Baby’s Day Out would be pretty offended by a comedy that makes a veteran Bollywood actor play a fugitive billionaire whose grand plan of escaping the country involves an ape disguise, a cage and a sultry sidekick called Mona Darling.
If that isn’t enough, Aadar Jain, who looks a lot like Nakul Kapoor in Shibani Kashyap’s 90s pop hit ‘Ho Gayi Hai Mohabbat’ (or the film Tumse Achcha Kaun Hai, depending on how old you are), plays an incompetent simpleton from Indore who is in charge of transporting the gorilla from Mumbai to Diu without knowing that it’s actually a man. (At one point, he engages in an elaborate song at a roadside dhaba with the giant monkey to pay for his truck’s diesel – a scene that might have been written as a tragedy in a film directed by a white man.) Why Diu, you ask? Such an unusual movie destination. Perhaps because it’s a rare Gujarati territory where alcohol is legally sold – and one can’t possibly be sober to participate in this hare-brained journey. Or perhaps because Shroff’s character, MD Makwana, is a daft spoof on beer baron and fugitive Vijay Mallya. Throw in a Gir forest ranger played by Rajpal Yadav (long time no see), a plane crash that results in a real gorilla from Uganda on the loose, a shot of the two gorillas peeing on either side of the hero, a sozzled veterinarian, a climax of tranquiliser darts and errant bullets – and I wonder why I’m still writing this review.
Speaking of Baby’s Day Out, I can’t help but recall the scene where the gorilla in the zoo and his alleged target audience, a baby, outsmart the three adult crooks who underestimate both the animal and the infant. There’s a lesson somewhere in there for Indian filmmakers. And in case you’re wondering, I’m “others” in the first paragraph. One day, you will be too. Make no mistake. Or better still, make so many mistakes that Hello Charlie is not the worst part of your decade.