Charlie Chopra & The Mystery Of Solang Valley(SonyLIV, 6 Episodes)
Starring Wamiqa Gabbi, Priyanshu Painyuli, Naseeruddin Shah, Lara Dutta, Neena Gupta, Ratna Pathak Shah,Gulshan Grover, Paoli Dam, Vivaan Shah, Imaad Shah
Directed by Vishal Bhardwaj
Rating: ** ½
Being an ardent fan of Agatha Christie’s timeless whodunits I was so looking forward to what Vishal Bhardwaj has done to one of Christie’s lesser known murder mysteries The Sittaford Mystery.
But , hell, what is this?!
The thing about Agatha Christie is, even if you’ve read the novel and know who the killer is, you can still return to the story and be just as enthralled by the characterization and plot development as the first time.
In Charlie Chopra, it ceases to matter after a few episodes who the killer is. After a point, you just don’t care about this family of dysfunctional gold diggers. Each of them could have killed Brigadier Meherban Singh Rawat played by Badman Gulshan Grover, doing the mean moneyed murder victim with the kind of wry humour that the rest of the characters are not really in the mood to bring to the table.
Everyone treats the corny happenings with dead earnestness, none more so than our heroine Charulata ‘Charlie” Chopra an amateur detective modeled on the amateur detective Emily Trefusis in the Agatha Christie novel.As played by the Bhardwaj favourite Wamiqa Gabbi , Charlie comes across as a little more than a busybody with very little knowledge of how a killer’s mind works.
Sure , Charlie is an amateur detective. But does the character have to come across as so emphatically amateurish ?Somewhere after a major betrayal by her boyfriend(Vivaan Shah, almost all of Naseeruddin Shah’s family has found employment in this whodunit) Charlie suddenly cuts her hair for no rhyme or reason: is it a form of protest, or something far more practical, like the shooting schedule clashing with another? Nowadays Ms Gabbi is a very busy actress. Maybe Charlie can help us solve this one.
As for the rest of the consciously cryptic characters, most of them are so sketchily conceived they seem like shadows rather than real people. The most wasted actors in this shallow shadowy adaptation of are poor Pauli Dam, Imaaduddin Shah(Naseer’s talented son) and Lara Dutta.
Lara plays a rude Begum with a daughter of questionable parentage who snatches a plate of kababs from Charlie Chopra’s hands and announces, ‘She is about to leave.’
Brownie points for making her displeasure clear. Something that I wanted to do soon after the first murder is committed. By the time a British actress rushes into the stuffy overheated room screaming she is the dead Brigadier’s pregnant mistress,no one cared about who she was and where she had learnt to be so skillfully hammy in just a few seconds of screen time.
Barring Priyanshu Painyuli as a pain-in-the-whatever provincial news reporter,most of the other characters show no spunk. Charlie conducts her lackluster sleuthing like a mare sniffing into a sterile paddy field. There is little that seems to involve her. We wait for her to get even remotely interested in the whodunit. But she seems to be on her trip.
Sad. If you are looking for Agatha Christie in this vague whodunit, then you are wasting your time. Charlie Chopra isn’t the only amateur here.