Chehre - A Washout
Let us begin with trying to explode the myth that as Amitabh Bachchan’s name appears in the credits of Chehre as “guest appearance” he did not charge any fee for his role.
He did not ask for any professional fee for his role, one of the two lead roles in the film, the other one having been played by Emraan Hashmi. But, it is also right that the film has been co-produced along with Anand Pandit’s production house by Saraswati Entertainment Private Limited of which, one of the two directors happens to be Abhishek Amitabh Bachchan.
It is classified as a “Non-govt company and is registered at Registrar of Companies, Mumbai. Its authorized share capital is Rs. 2,500,000 and its paid-up capital is Rs. 100,000.”
In other words, Chehre is 50% a home production so the gains too, will be shared with the co-producer. True, that this is happening all the time. But what goes against ethics is that the producers and everyone else including Mr. Bachchan allows this false piece of news to gather strength by withholding the truth behind the “guest appearance.”
Back to the film itself. The film is an uncredited adaptation of the 1956 German novel A Dangerous Game by Friedrich Dürrenmatt which had earlier been adapted in Kannada as Malle Nilluvavarege (2015) and also staged as an English play Deadly Game.
It is a thriller that features four very old men living in an antique house in the middle of nowhere with a strong man who cannot speak and a slightly-not-there maid Anna who looks after their needs. All of them have mastered the skill in different departments of justice. And they have a mission - to punish ‘criminals’ through their own mock trial as they believe that these ‘guests’ have been freed by the justice system.
So, whenever a guest arrives, they play a game of a mock trial with the unsuspecting guest on the assumption that he/she has certainly committed some grievous crime for which they were not proved guilty. This, itself is a very wrong premise based on the false logic of a self-appointed judicial system operating beyond the law, never mind the recording system kept on during the ‘trial’ as Zaidi explains to the ‘accused’ after the trial is over.
Sameer Mehra (Emraan Hashmi), an ad giant who is driving to a hilly place to meet his wife gets stuck in the ice-covered tracks on the hills though the milestone says it is 380 kms from Delhi! By chance, he happens to meet Paramjeet Singh Bhullar (Annu Kapoor) who urges him to come along and take shelter in their mansion till the weather improves and he can move on.
They go to the very inviting villa or Jagdish Acharya (Dhritiman Chatterjee), an ex-judge, alongwith Lateef Zaidi (Amitabh Bachchan) who was once public prosecutor. He makes a slightly late entry and immediately dons the robe of Sherlock Holmes by deducing from the empty but branded bag of Sameer, his wet raincoat and shoes and so on, who he is and what brings him to their mansion.
Hariya Jatav (Raghubir Yadav), the retired hangman, is already present. For some odd reason, he plays on the flute between carrying out execution orders suggested several times with a close-up of the noose hanging awkwardly somewhere in the otherwise ostentatiously furnished room of the beautiful mansion.
Other than the atmosphere and the mansion, the film has nothing much to offer. The film takes an inordinately long time to come to the crux – the trial. Before that, Sameer is nicely placed in a synthetic comfort zone with drinks, eats, small talks and the refreshing diversion added by the beautiful but very intriguing Anna who wears a wooden expression and then suddenly, breaks into childish laughter for tiny reasons such as Sameer gifting her with a couple of toy butterflies that begin to flutter their wings the minute they are placed on her palms and Sameer is intrigued.
Too prove Sameer guilty of participating in the murder of his boss Oswal (Sameer Soni), a case is slowly built up against him hinged on the tiny clue of an expensive cigarette case with the initials N.O. (Natasha Oswal) carved on it. Natasha is the very attractive wife of Oswal who owns the ad agency Sameer works in.
The flashback into Sameer’s affair with Natasha is a direct plagiarisation of the Amit Saxena film Jism (2003) which had the same story of adultery leading to murder. The ‘court’ presided over by Acharya as the judge, Zaidi as prosecutor and Bhullar as the defence lawyer decide to pronounce Sameer guilty but before that happens, Sameer wizens up to their tricks and tries to escape.
If “punishing criminals” leads to death by hanging, then are the members of the mock court not equally guilty of murder considering that someone has already been through this trial and is missing? How is the highest court of the country complicit in this diabolic scheme that reduces the legal and judiciary machinery in the country into a bad joke.
As if all this is not enough, Zaidi as the public prosecutor, launches on a long lecture on how criminals are often allowed to go free referring to the Nirbhaya case and other cases of acid victims and so on which diminishes whatever little hope there was to rescue the film.
This long monologue has no direct link with the main narrative which narrates a different story altogether. Bachchan is at his hamming best because despite that pony tail on his false beard, he just cannot strip himself of the aura that his star image has vested in him for five decades and more. Dhritiman is the most controlled of them all as “Justice” Acharya while Annu Kapoor as Bhullar invests his character with the right Punjabi accent but other than their make-up and changing ‘image’ they do not have much scope to draw on their talent.
The cinematography is very good but the editing is jarring, perhaps due to the weak script. No songs help in trying to keep the suspense alive and the background score is loud but good. The make-up that was expected to add flesh to the old characters does not seem to have worked.
Emraan Hashmi is wonderful right through the varied emotions his character goes through, reducing him from the arrogant, spoilt, over-confident and rich corporate guy to a timid and beaten young man running to save his life. The two ‘side’ cameos are well fleshed out by Siddhanth Kapoor as Joe and Ria Chakraborty as Anna while Krystle D'Souza adds the much-needed oomph to this otherwise all-masculine story.
Chehre is a complete wash-out. The pre-credit scene of Bachchan breaking into a hundred images on screen while delivering a long monologue no one can follow perhaps is a sign of things to come.