Charles Enterprises movie review: An intriguing premise lost in execution – The Indian Express

In an era of heightened sensitivity and the potential for controversy surrounding religious critique, it takes great courage to create a film that satirises the unwavering faith people have in God. While renowned British comedy troupe Monty Python has boldly criticised religious institutions and the blind faith people place in gods through films like The Holy Grail (1975), Life of Brian (1979), and The Meaning of Life (1983), India’s popular cinema realm has also ventured into similar territory with movies like OMG – Oh My God! (2012) and PK (2014).
However, the exploration of the overpowering influence of religions on people has been a rare endeavour in Malayalam cinema, with only a few exceptions such as the film Trance (2020). Notably, the 1973 Malayalam movie Nirmalyam dared to include a controversial scene where the velichappaadu (an oracle between the goddess and the worshipper in a Hindu temple) spat at the face of the deity. But this action was driven by a sense of personal betrayal due to a tragic incident in his life.
In a recent interview with Cue Studio, debutant director Subhash Lalitha Subrahmanian described his movie Charles Enterprises as “a satire that comes from viewing some people approach devotion with logic”. This statement alone was enough to generate excitement among viewers, considering the industry’s limited output of social satires in recent times.
Set in Ernakulam, Charles Enterprises revolves around the lives of Gomathi (Urvashi), a single mother and devout follower of Lord Ganesha, and her son Ravi (Balu Varghese), who is grappling with the challenges of Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) affecting various aspects of his life. Gomathi treasures an ancient Ganesha idol, salvaged from their ancestral temple after its decline, and dedicates herself to daily rituals and prayers centred around the idol. Meanwhile, two Tamils – Parvatham (Abhija Sivakala) and her henchman (Manikanda Rajan) – approach Ravi with a lucrative offer to purchase the ancient idol. Initially hesitant, Ravi succumbs to the temptation of money, fuelled by his aspirations to establish a business someday. Consequently, he steals the idol from his own home but soon finds himself in a predicament when he is unable to sell it to Parvatham. In the midst of this, Ravi befriends Charles (Kalaiyarasan), a Tamil born and brought up in Kochi, and together they embark on a journey to sell the idol and bring stability to their lives. The remainder of the film focuses on their arduous struggles to reach their intended destination.
Despite its marketing as a satire, the movie falls short of fulfilling its genre, often lacking direction and failing to provide anything fresh to captivate viewers beyond its semi-crime, semi-drama premise. The first two acts progress aimlessly, devoid of focus and making feeble attempts at humour that ultimately fall flat. The writing bears full responsibility for the film’s shortcomings. The initial half of Charles Enterprises is filled with unremarkable and unimaginative scenes that lack any semblance of excitement. Moments and incidents feel contrived, and dialogues come across as forced upon the characters. Although the tone of the movie shifts somewhat after Ravi steals the idol and conceals it in a supposedly safe location, the subsequent parts of the film squander numerous opportunities. Despite briefly showcasing the Tamil diaspora in Kochi through a few shots, the movie fails to explore them further, leaving viewers perplexed about the purpose of their introduction in the first place.
The film, as a whole, fails to deliver any genuinely satirical moments or dialogues, despite the filmmaker’s assertion that it would embody satire. Even the attempts at humour feel forced and fall short of being truly funny. From the very beginning, the movie seems to wander without finding a clear direction. Even with the absence of satirical elements, the story had the potential to be a neat family drama or a crime drama. However, the lack of cohesive writing prevents it from becoming anything substantial.
While the film occasionally tries to show empathy towards Ravi’s disability, the repetitive and insensitive manner in which the characters around him address the topic becomes both irritating and inconsiderate. While there are instances in the movie where Ravi is profoundly affected by the remarks made by those around him, the makers never take the initiative to address the matter directly, thereby reducing Charles Enterprises to another film that superficially incorporates a disability as a means to add an interesting element to the narrative.
When it comes to performances, Balu Varghese delivers a decent portrayal in the film, but the real disappointment lies in the wasted potential of Urvashi’s character. Urvashi, a remarkable actor capable of excelling in any role given to her, is let down by the poorly written-character in Charles Enterprises. Despite having ample screen time, Gomathi’s character suffers from weak writing and contrived moments, hindering Urvashi from delivering a strong performance. Gomathi in Charles Enterprises can be considered one of the weakest performances of Urvashi’s career. Additionally, Guru Somasundaram’s portrayal of Ravi’s father is also a letdown.
Surprisingly or not, Kalaiyarasan breathes some life into the film with his portrayal of Charles. Despite the underdeveloped nature of his character, Kalaiyarasan leaves a lasting impression with his performance, following his remarkable work in the film 2018 – Everyone Is A Hero. Additionally, Abhija Sivakala deserves commendation for her noteworthy performance as Parvatham.
With the exception of Swaroop Philip’s commendable cinematography, the technical aspects of the film are disappointingly weak, lacking any standout qualities.
In short, Charles Enterprises can be described as a wasted opportunity due to the lack of dedication to developing a solid storyline and a well-crafted script.

Anandu SureshAnandu SureshAnandu Suresh is a Senior sub-editor at Indian Express Online. He like… read more


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