With his ambitious film ‘Main Aur Charles’ releasing this October 30, actor Randeep Hooda often finds himself answering the one question on everyone’s mind — did you ever have a chance to meet the notorious Charles Sobhraj?
“No, and I was advised against it too by the then investigating officer Amod Kant. ‘If you meet him, he will make you do what he wants to do’, warned Mr Kant,” said Hooda, who will be seen as the ‘cunning and cultured’ Charles Sobhraj in the film, while Adil Hussain will don the role of Amod Kant, who worked on Sobhraj’s Tihar jailbreak case.
Charles Sobhraj is currently in a jail in Nepal, having been convicted for several murders in the 1970s. He was even convicted and jailed in India from 1976 to 1997.
Spanned over a couple of decades, many places, and Sobhraj’s ‘multiple’ personalities, Main Aur Charles is not a dark retelling of a complex life.
“It’s a fiction film made around his Tihar jailbreak. It’s engaging and entertaining enough with authentic information sourced from news archives and Kant by our director, Prawaal Raman,” says Hooda.
Joined by the film’s producer Rahul Mitra, Randeep Hooda shares how it took them five years to find a producer (Pooja Bhatt had left the team initially), and will definitely make a sequel if the movie is a hit.
Randeep Hooda, whose uncanny resemblance to Charles landed him the ‘dream’ role muses how he is not Charles, but a lot of him is in Charles.
“I am not manipulative like him, but I found him challenging for here is a man, living a life of disguise and lies. Where do I tell the truth of this character? I hear stories of his generosity and flamboyance, a ladies man who had no real passport or identity, who was anonymous yet famous, had an Indian Sindhi father and Vietnamese mother, and a troubled childhood. He is an enigma, a mystery, and hypnotic personality,” Hooda makes a passing reference to ‘Hannibal Lector’, from the film Silence of the Lambs.
He also mentions how the Hindi film Don was inspired by Charles Sobhraj.
“A man wanted in so many countries and still untraceable was so like Charles Sobhraj. Amitabh Bachchan played it up,” adds Hooda.
For the actor in him, it is the element of intrigue that conjures up an interest to play a certain role.
“Playing an accountant is boring. Cinema is larger than life and needs characters like these unless it is directed for film festival circuit,” says Hooda.
Needless to say, a lot of preparation went into creating the look of Charles Sobhraj. From his mannerisms to his irresistible charm, Hooda had to reconstruct Charles’ character and imbibe it.
“He became Charles and the similarity was scary sometimes. Although we did tone down the accent for Indian
audience,” chips in Rahul Mitra.
As a child, studying in a hostel near Sonepat, Randeep Hooda and fellow students would often hear tales of ‘The Serpent’, the Naagraj.
“I must’ve been 10 years old, and we were familiar with the stories of Charles Sobhraj. So when the role was offered, it was a yes,” says Randeep Hooda, who has recently wrapped up filming the black comedy ‘Yeh Laal Rang’ shot in Karnal based on corruption in a blood bank, and enjoying the reception of Deepa Mehta’s ‘Beeba Boys’, a crime thriller based on an Indo-Canadian gang war.
“Usually, Indians are stereotyped in Western films, but this is the real thing. And so is ‘Yeh Laal Rang’ for I am tired of Haryana being portrayed as a villainous Khap-run state. I am thankful to Aamir Khan too for doing ‘Dangal’, that is close to Haryana,” said Randeep Hooda, also planning to bring polo club to city.