Vishal Bhardwaj teased fans with the pilot episode of “Charlie Chopra & The Mystery of Solang Valley” in June and then made fans wait for nearly three months before releasing the rest of the series. This six-part thriller is an official adaptation of the mystery queen’s novel, “The Sittaford Mystery.” Had the wait been worth it? That’s up for debate, but let’s just recap episode one and the plot for now.
Plot overview: Brigadier Meharbaan Singh Rawat (Gulshan Grover) is discovered murdered in his house on a snowy night in Himachal Pradesh and his nephew Jimmy (Vivaan Shah) is arrested as the prime suspect in the case. Charlie Chopra (Wamiqa Gabbi) , Jimmy’s fiancée embarks on her own investigation into the murder, uncovering that nearly a dozen individuals connected to Brig. Meharbaan had motives to kill him for his wealth. There’s also a paranormal twist in the tale. Brig. Rawat’s death is declared by the ghost of Lady Rose, a renowned spirit of the valley, during a séance conducted by paranormal expert Roy (Naseeruddin Shah) at a dinner hosted at the Brigadier’s brother’s home.
“Charlie Chopra & The Mystery of Solang Valley” is predominantly an atmospheric tale, featuring stunning snowy scenes amidst the Himachal peaks. The indoor settings exude a nostalgic charm reminiscent of a bygone era, with old mansions and cottages, which lend a haunted tone to the proceedings. However, the outdoor scenes, particularly those in daylight, will tempt viewers to grab their jackets, sweaters, and boots for a hill station adventure. Well, that is if you’re a fan of chilly winters, snowfall, and skiing. The decision to have Wamiqa Gabbi’s Charlie break the fourth wall and look directly at the camera still felt unnecessary, a critique I mentioned in the episode one review as well. However, over the course of the series, Charlie grows on you. She is a likable, bubbly detective, always on the hunt for new clues, and each episode sees her chasing a different suspect and uncovering new family secrets.
To ensure fans are invested in this mystery, episode two ends with another death, which the cops believe to be an accident, but Charlie Chopra is convinced it’s another murder to benefit the real culprits. Priyanshu Painyuli plays local journalist Sitaram, who reluctantly teams up with Charlie to gather clues in the case and gain more insights into the developing news story. Gulshan Grover often appears in flashbacks as Brig. Rawat, revealing himself to be a paradoxical figure, who was both generous and ruthless to his near and dear, and his shadow looms over them even after death.
The plot starts to lose its momentum from episode 4 onward, despite beginning with the long-awaited flashback of how Charlie first met her partner, Jimmy. The “meet cute” between them was likely intended to be humorous and endearing but, regrettably, it turned out to be quite dull. The romantic subplot feels like a snooze-fest as there’s no chemistry between Wamiqa Gabbi and Vivaan Shah. Perhaps it would have been better if they had portrayed Charlie as an independent private investigator in the story rather than directly connecting her to the accused in the case.
I feel a bit conflicted about the length of the tale. Six episodes weren’t sufficient to do justice to the ensemble cast that Vishal Bhardwaj assembled for “Charlie Chopra & The Mystery of Solang Valley.” However, there isn’t enough substance to have made the show any longer either. With actors like Neena Gupta, Ratna Pathak Shah, Lara Dutta, Paoli Dam, Imaaduddin Shah, and a host of others, all of whom perform their roles well, the characters still feel underdeveloped and fail to strike a chord.
As far as the mystery itself is concerned, the series does unfold like a classic Agatha Christie tale, with plenty of twists and turns, but all with a desi flavor to it. Is it the cash-strapped brother? Or the tenant who owed the Brig. money? Or the failing author? Or the unemployed nephew? Or perhaps a completely unknown mystery killer? You never know.
You can stream “Charlie Chopra & The Mystery of Solang Valley” on SonyLiv.
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