Friday, May 07, 2004


An Indian cop from London is sent to India to look for a missing British biologist, who has vanished somewhere in the mountains.

Dev Anand (Jimmy Shergill) comes to India incognito—though everyone knows of his mission—runs into a vagabond guide Ashraf (Uday Chopra) and goes up to the mountains. Here, a mysterious, blonde-haired drug don called Policeman (Irrfan) calls the shots.

On the way, they run into an assortment of strange characters like a hitch-hiking schoolteacher Naina (Hrishtaa Bhatt), an ice-cream slurping junkie (Namrata Shirodkar), drug carriers and a cute kid doling out apples.

After getting the protagonists to this pretty Shangrila-like place, writer-director Tigmannshu Dhulia loses his way. The film goes in every which direction, trying to pack in everything – male-bonding, Hindu-Muslim friendship, Italian Mafia, police-crime nexus, political machinations, Afghan warlords, romance, mysticism… the works.

The point of view changes abruptly from the search for the biologist to Ashraf’s past and his angst at being dismissed as a ‘gaddar’ due to his religion.

Dev is accused of being a Pakistani spy (why?), Afghan militants land up at Policeman’s hideout to wreak havoc and the junkie turns out to be a journalist who steals Dev’s camera and gets her expose on the drug Mafia – a half-baked job which, nevertheless, sends panic down the drug route. Now, everyone has to congregate at Policeman’s ‘adda’ for a hasty climax.

Watching Charas you get the strange feeling that lot has happened, but nothing has really moved. You are still none the wiser about the characters – who, for instance is, Naina? How did Policeman set up such an intricate worldwide network in so little time, when he never seems to step out of his forest den? Do journalists usually get scoops by going to bed with strangers?

Jimmy Shergill and Uday Chopra are earnest, but the film gives them no scope for performance. Irrfan is good in his ‘flashback’ portion, as an international drug don with tentacles everywhere, he looks too ineffectual.

In his “Fiction based on Actual Facts” Dhulia may have tried to pack in information like a magazine article packed with snippets and quotes – in a film this approach does not work. Charas remains at the level of a good attempt and botched execution.


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