The Bikini Killer, The Serpent and The Splitting Killer or as we all know him, Charles Shobhraj. This introduction does not in any way glorifies the crimes of that imbecile. Charles Shobhraj was an International criminal. He was imprisoned in different countries for many crimes that he committed including murder but he managed to escape from a lot of them through his exceptional deceiving skills and tactics. He deceived people everywhere he went. His modus operandi was drugging people to procure their money and their passports. It was a time when replacing a photo on the passport was not particularly difficult and he pried on that very fact. The more passports he procured, the more he could fly around and the more people he killed. The facts in the case of Charles had always been hazy and still are hazy. The number of people he has killed remains a mystery but it is around 15 to 20 murders(probably more). He was a womanizer, a deceiving machine and most of all, he was someone who thought he could do whatever he wanted. There are several adaptations of the life of Charles Shobhraj. Today we are going to talk about the two adaptations, Main Aur Charles and The serpent.
Main Aur Charles is a Bollywood film that was released in the year 2015. The protagonist of the film was portrayed by Charles Sobhraj whilst all the other characters were in a supporting role. The other cast included people like Richa Chadda, Adil Hussain and other minor role characters such as Alexx O’Nell, Mandana Karimi, Vipin Sharma and many more. The cast of the movie was not as well as one would expect. On the other hand, the casting of The Serpent was perfect and on point. All the characters did justice to the roles they were given and totally indulged you in the show. The lack of skilled casting shows a huge impact in the film Main Aur Charles. Most of the casting of the movie is dull. The Indian public connects to this story more because of the use of the Hindi Language and familiar cast.
One would think that as the story is based on the same person, the two of them might be similar at least in this way but that was not quite the case here. The storyline of Main Aur Charles was good but it did not have a hold like it should have had considering that the life of Charles was pretty interesting. The movie flows in a single direction and has no particular points where everything makes sense to you. It fails to connect all the things happening in the movie simultaneously in a way that interests you.
The Serpent starts at a very good pace. There are multiple things happening at the same time but the starting is confusing at the same time too. There are way too many changes in the timelines at the same time. The worst part was that the changes in the timelines were not in a linear fashion. This made it very confusing to follow and also can make a person uninterested in the initial plot. But as the story goes on, most of the storyline catches up to you but according to me, some part of the timeline remains unclear. Overall, The Serpent has a more compelling storyline. Main Aur Charles was a movie and not an 8 episode story so we cannot expect the same level of depth in the storyline.
There were many differences in both adaptations but we will talk about the major ones. Charles Sobhraj was also called the Bikini killer because of his exceptional seducing skills and good looks. He was an expert at befriending people and drugging them where he used his exceptional charm. The movie Main ur Charles justifies this seductress image of his by showing intimate scenes of him with different women throughout the movie. The Serpent does not cover this side of him much. He is shown making friends very easily and drugging them even more easily than that but he is not shown as a seducing machine per se.
One more thing that I like about the Serpent is that the character of Charles is not glorified and not shown as someone who would like a typical “hero”. He is shown for the thug he is, ruthless and evil. Whereas in Main Aur Charles, he is shown as a charming character whom the audiences love and feel like what he is doing is right. This has always been one of the biggest drawbacks of Indian cinema. This has been going on in Bollywood for years which also has led to the setting of many wrong examples for the audiences, especially when the influence is huge multiple things are happening. The Serpent shows the whole life of Charles throughout the series whereas Main Aur Charles focuses on the very late part of his life and fails to show the relevancy where needed.
The Serpent shows all the timelines and it is very authentic in its portrayal of the places and all the people including the storyline. All the aspects of his life, his modus operandi and the most impressive part of it was the different point of views from which it shows all the things that are happening. It covers the story very well and keeps you interested for the most part.
Now we come to the portrayal. Tahar Rahim was at his best in his portrayal of Charles. His french was also very much on point and his changing of accent whenever needed was also amazing. Randeep Hooda is an amazing actor but he could not give justice to the character of Charles. I blame it on the poor execution by the director though.
Overall, The serpent exceeds expectations and is a way better portrayal of the life of Charles Sobhraj than Main Aur Charles.