The Hindi web series Charlie Chopra & The Mystery Of Solang Valley by Vishal Bhardwaj and stars Wamiqa Gabbi, Priyanshu Painyuli, Neena Gupta, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Gulshan Grover, Lara Dutta, Paoli Dam,  Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak Shah, Vivaan Shah, Imaad Shah

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Charlie Chopra & The Mystery Of Solang Valley is now available to stream on SonyLiv.

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Charlie Chopra and The Mystery Of Solang Valley

Charlie Chopra & The Mystery Of Solang Valley review

  • Wamiqa Gabbi
  • Rekha Bhardwaj’s melodies
  • Slow-burn thriller


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There is a scene in Charlie Chopra & The Mystery Of Solang Valley, a web series adaptation by Vishal Bhardwaj of Agatha Christie’s The Sittaford Mystery, where the eponymous Charlie Chopra, a spunky private detective played by Wamiqa Gabbi, is standing slightly bent over a piece of wooden furniture while talking to the journalist Sitaram Bisht (played by Priyanshu Painyuli) about the contents of a small pouch they have managed to steal from a suspect in an ongoing murder investigation (which is the main plot). As she is slumped forward, the journo is distracted by the visible contours of her cleavage. He cannot take his eyes off it even as she asks about the things inside the pouch. The journo replies that they must search elsewhere to find new clues even as his gaze is still fixed on her thorax area. Wamiqa Gabi doesn’t look at him but says (slightly paraphrased) “But you’ll not find them in the place where you are looking”.

It is such a playful, fun line, but the way Gabbi delivers them in a deadpan tone, without smiling coyly or in disgust at the creepiness or even being coquettish. It is the tone of a person who understands herself, her body, its attractions, and the inevitable roving nature of men but doesn’t give a f$%& to any of them. It is the character trait of Charlie Chopra, and Wamiqa Gabbi nails it close to perfection. 

Gabbi was previously seen in Vishal Bhadwaj’s Modern Love: Mumbai (the Mumbai Dragon episode directed by him) and Fursat. Incidentally,  Gabbi’s other collaboration with Bhardwaj, Khufiya, is arriving on Netflix next week. As you can see, she is already a muse to him. In Charlie Chopra & The Mystery Of Solang Valley, you can understand why the celebrated director seems to think of her very highly. Gabbi owns the screen in more ways than one — she is practically in almost every frame. And she is mighty impressive in all of them.

Agatha Christie trademarks the story. A man with seemingly great relatives and friends is killed out of the blue (on a typically stormy night). An investigator starts to unravel the mystery. Behind the facade of bonhomie and camaraderie lies a tale of betrayal, love, lust, long-held secrets, and many other emotions. Everyone has a reason to kill. And everyone comes up with an alibi that they aren’t the one who committed the crime. The investigator must see which reason is true and which alibi is false. 

This particular Christie has a kind of tailpiece in that there is a twist in the tale after the case is seemingly solved. And there are further intriguing developments. It is in this part that the series adapters (Along with Bhardwaj, Jyotsana Hariharan and Anjum Rajabali) have veered away from the original and Indianised the last act. And, as it happens, it is the weakest and least convincing of the portions.

Vishal Bhardwaj is a past master in creatively adapting Shakespearean dramas to Indian sensibilities. His similar act with Christie is a bit underwhelming. To be sure, he manages to whip up some typical ‘noir’ moments. The humour is agreeably droll. Yet, the story set in snow-capped Solang Valley does not lend itself to the ‘black’ fetish that Bhardwaj is famous for. 

Yes, the initial episodes are fairly engaging but belong to the Christie investigative set-pieces and less to the Bhardwaj school. The story is simple: A rich brigadier (Gulshan Grover) is killed, and his family and friends are shocked. But each one of them is suspect. One of them is Jimmy Nautiyal (Vivaan Shah), and he is arrested. So his fiance, a private investigator Charlie Chopra (Wamiqa Gabbi) is pitchforked into the case. And she untangles the web of thread woven around the case. A TV journalist, Sitaram Bisht (Priyanshu Painyulli), becomes her side-kick in the investigation. 

Gabbi is the center of attraction and she owns the screen with rare Elan brilliance. It is a character with an element of outré in it. A lesser actor would have played it more darkly. Gabbi delivers a complex role with an agreeable element of fun and seriousness. Even as she turns to the screen to provide a quip or a general line (breaking the fourth wall, as they call it), Gabbi makes it part of the flow. 

The up-and-coming actor Priyanshu Painyulli is also efficient, even though his character is written less than convincingly. It is unclear whether he is part of a big TV network or one of those typical small channels that our small towns are now replete with. 

The rest of the cast, quite heavy, has nothing great to do. The entire Naseeruddin Shah family, including his wife Ratna Pathak Shah and sons Vivaan Shah and Imaad Shah, are around. Lara Dutta, Neena Gupta, Gulshan Grover, Paoli Dam, and all go through the motions without sweat. But you do get the feeling that they are underutilized. Rekha Bhardwaj’s two haunting melodies add the right aural atmosphere to a slow-burn emotional thriller.

Shot in the icy hills of the Himalayas, the story’s treatment is also a bit cold. But all the warmth is served up by Gabbi. That saves this 7-episode series.

What are the other critics saying about Charlie Chopra & The Mystery Of Solang Valley?

Balakumar Kuppuswamy
Balakumar Kuppuswamy

An engineer-turned-journalist, K Balakumar’s career began in print publications as a sports writer. That also opened doors for other journalistic avenues like films, music, finance, technology and politics, which nobody can escape in India. After 30 yrs in mainstream journalism, now a freelancer for various digital publications.

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