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The Man From Chaplin Land

Wednesday, December 19, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

What if an international airport in India was called HAHA (Hindustani Antarrashtriya Hawaai Adda), and a man arrived from a country called Gibberadonia that is based “on the ideology of Charlie Chaplin?”

Charlie And The Tin Can, written and directed by Shrikant Bhatt and Inderjit Nagi, demands instant suspension of disbelief as the heart-warming story of the man without a country unfolds in a plot that combines The Terminal with the spirit The Rainmaker or Bawarchi.

A young man (Ritwik Bhowmik), whose name nobody can pronounce arrives from Gibberadonia, and finds he cannot leave the airport because civil war has broken out in his country. He is renamed Charlie, and speaking a little broken English, he cannot explain why he came to India or why he carries around a small tin can, that he treats like a precious object.

Despite his predicament, Charlie has a cheerful innocence that endears him to the people working at the airport and a couple of frequent travelers. There’s Ansh (Anshuman Malhotra), the man who runs the cafeteria and provides Charlie with free food if he will help him break the ice with Ashima (Sanaya Pithawalla), the stern lady at the immigration counter. The crabby cleaner (Lilliput), known to all as Kaka is suspicious of Charlie, the chief of immigration Sudhir (Shiv Kanungo) cannot leave till the Charlie matter is sorted, which causes a strain in his family.

Meanwhile, Charlie goes about blithely befriending the security guard (Jatin Ahuja), a stewardess Devika (Aisha Ahmed), and an artist Kabeer (Syed Ali Arif) in the tiny airport (the set was apparently made of recycled material), that looks more like a mofussil railway station. He also solves all their problems and brings hope into their lives with his child-like kindness and empathy. For a man with such a sunny disposition, nothing seems impossible, all it needs is taking the first step.

Ritwik Bhowmik is utterly beguiling as Charlie, and never lets slip the strange accent of rolling ‘r’s he speaks in very rapidly, with enough English words to make him intelligible. He keeps the play afloat when it starts to sag and scenes go on for much longer than they need to. The play needs drastic trimming and the reduction of some over-the-top melodrama. However, at times of such virulent late, a dose of “Charlie’s ideology” even in gibberish should feel good.

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