Director: Vishal Bhardwaj
Cast: Wamiqa Gabbi, Priyanshu Painyuli, Neena Gupta, Ratna Pathak Shah, Gulshan Grover, Lara Dutta, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Paoli Dam, Imaad Shah, Vivaan Shah, Naseeruddin Shah
Where: Streaming on Sony LIV
Rating: 3.5 stars
For a director who has spun some of the finest Hindi films with his sincere adaptations from Shakespeare’s notable dramas (read Maqbool from Macbeth, Omkara from Othello and Haider from Hamlet), Vishal Bhardwaj refreshingly resorts to Agatha Christie to bring one of her best-sellers to light. Taking cues from the writer’s novel The Sittaford Mystery, Charlie Chopra And The Mystery Of Solang Valley is an engaging whodunit that has a delightful performance by Wamiqa Gabbi at the centrestage.
A mysterious murder of an affluent army man Brigadier Meharbaan Singh Rawat draws Charulata aka Charlie Chopra (Gabbi) to a dangerous web of lies where nothing is what it seems. Charlie becomes involved on knowing that her fiancé Jimmy (Vivaan Shah) is a prime accused in the case, as he was present at the time of Rawat’s murder. Strangely, the said murder was predicted during a séance performed by Dr. Rai (Naseeruddin Shah), playing an eccentric soothsayer. This strange confluence of mystery mixed with supernatural elements is what forms the crux of the show.
Written by Bhardwaj, Jyotsna Hariharan and Anjum Rajabali, the show stays away from the use of profanity or titillation and instead deploys dark humour to deliver an engaging narrative. While Charlie routinely breaks the fourth wall to give viewers a glimpse into her genius and innocent naivety, it’s a trope that begins to lose steam somewhere in between. But Wamiqa being the solid performer that she is, manages to hold your attention.
What makes the show a lot more engaging is the game of one-upmanship between Charlie and Sitaram Bisht (a charming Priyanshu Painyuli), a local, motor-mouthed journalist who is pursuing the investigation of the murder with his own hidden agenda. You derive a strange sense of pleasure in watching amateur professionals come into their own league as they go about demystifying clues they stumble upon.
A rousing issue with the show is its inability to showcase its ensemble cast in their entirety. Which is sad considering that Bhardwaj brings together a fine line-up of acting talents with the show. While Ratna Pathak Shah and Neena Gupta are rock-solid, seldom do we get to see much of Lara Dutta or Paoli Dam, both who are gifted actors. It’s a bit alarming because Bhardwaj as a filmmaker is known to extract meaty performances from the women in his projects by all means. Surprisingly, even the other supporting cast members including Chandon Roy Sanyal or Gulshan Grover aren’t dealt with enough scenes to showcase their abilities.
For that minor shortcoming aside, you’d surely want to add Charlie Chopra And The Mystery Of Solang Valley to your binge list, solely for how good Wamiqa is. Clearly her director’s favourite (read Modern Love Mumbai, Fursat and Khufiya, which is their fourth collaboration), the actress is having a stellar year on OTT, post the success of Vikramaditya Motwane’s Jubilee.
Comprising six episodes, the show is now streaming on SONY LIV.