It is so heart wrenching to see how a country, that boasts about its age-old civilization and values, takes pride in the fact that it produces the highest number of doctors, engineers, and intellectuals – does not celebrate its’ artists.
Sometimes one feels that is it such a bad thing to become an artist in this country. It makes me envious of the European countries where an artist enjoys his share of respect and success. Why does it feel that a person has committed a grave crime when he or she decides to become an artist. Isn’t this the same society that lauded and pushed us towards dreaming big. Are only those dreams validated that fall under the ambit of the set norms? Why does every artist in this country has to go through a phase of penury (sometimes never ending). Several questions like this prodded my mind as I watched Ram Singh Charlie.
“Artist ki reharsal aur mullah ki namaz same hoti hai. Masjid tootne pr namaz nhi rukti”
Directed by Nitin Kakkar, the film portrays the life of a circus artist Ram Singh, often known as Charlie, because of his impersonation of the great Charlie Chaplin in his circus performances. It is played by the captivating and magnetic Kumud Mishra. Due to financial losses, the circus has to put it’s curtains down, leaving all the artists to fend for themselves in the world, referred to as the bigger circus. What follows is an array of never-ending struggles. Ram Singh has to finally resort to pulling a rickshaw to earn his livelihood and provide for his family.
“Dhanda karenge to artist mar jayega”
The unswerving Divya Dutta plays the wife of Ram Singh, and the duo gives us some cherishable onscreen moments. The film serves as an ode to the distinguished life of Sir Charlie Spencer Chaplin. His character of The Tramp bore a similar pathos and poignancy that every artist can resonate with.
Kumud Mishra captures this poignancy in a subtle manner. There are moments that give you a lump in your throat. There is a scene where Ram Singh goes to meet one of his colleagues from the circus. The colleague once a performer was now working in a brothel cleaning the rooms. Ram Singh walks into the room when this deaf and dumb colleague is collecting the trash. His state is deplorable. There is a sort of empathy in those gleaming eyes. The character played by an actor named Purnanand, tries to tell Ram Singh that he had no other way to earn his livelihood. Ram Singh just moves forward and embraces him without uttering a word.
Another theatrical scene that captures your attention and engulfs your soul in grief, is where Ram Singh finds a bottle of paint lying somewhere. Seeing the paint he can’t help but think of the days when he used to paint his face and apply makeup during a performance. His hands like an impulse start putting the paint on his own face. He puts on the mask of a performer. A performer who makes people smile while battling through his own adversities.
The life of Ram Singh in general and a specific scene might resonate with all my fellow theatre artists, who I am sure would have been privy to a similar feeling of angst at some point of time in their life.
“Sab karenge. Ticket bhi bechenge, tamboo bhi gaadenge aur perform bhi karenge”
We all feel the earnestness of the emotion and the helplessness that causes it to elevate in the first place. But with the helplessness comes an undying sincerity towards the craft. The hardest bit is to not compromise with the hard work and the spirit of performance even when the odds are against you.
This story belongs to every performer, who at some point of time, felt disdained by the society, who struggled to make the ends meet and just to earn the luxury of being able to perform on stage, who slept hungry and impoverished at night, just to give himself one more opportunity, one more chance, who waited patiently and endlessly for his turn to come, who wanted to bring about a change in the system and mind-sets, who fought all the prejudices and injustices, who still never compromised with the art, never made it a business, never commercialized it and never made it corrupt. This story is a celebration of every artist.
“Asli artist sab ke liye nhi khud ke liye perform krta hai”
As Ram Singh tells his son that do not perform for the audience, perform for your self and the world shall watch you. With that thought, let’s keep the optimism alive and be a part of this celebration by finding out time to watch this sincere and earnest effort.
Ram Singh Charlie is streaming on SonyLIV.
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