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Charlie Chopra Is No Hercule  Poirot & This Is Not An Agatha Christie Whodunit



Charlie Chopra &  The Mystery Of Solang Valley(SonyLIV, 6 Episodes)

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.

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