Chehre Movie Review: Even Amitabh Bachchan can’t save this trainwreck of a chamber drama
Chehre needed liberal doses of eccentricity for us to be invested consistently in its 139-minute runtime
With theatres reopening for the first time in four months, I chose Chehre to mark my return to the hallowed halls. The screening got delayed by 15 minutes, and I should have regarded it as a bad omen. By the time the film moved to its last 15 minutes, Lateef Zaidi (Amitabh Bachchan) was in a full-blown diatribe against the law of the courts, and the video stopped playing. The theatres, it seems, are still getting used to playing films. It was another sign. However, we had to endure the pointless preachy monologue once more. It’s a promising film that capitulates under the weight of its own incredulity.
Director: Rumi Jaffery
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Emraan Hashmi, Annu Kapoor, Krystle D'Souza
Rumi Jaffery’s directorial revolves around four retired men of the law—Amitabh Bachchan, Dhrithiman Chatterjee, Annu Kapoor, Raghubir Yadav—doling out their versions of justice to unsuspecting people, who stumble by their lonesome mansion. This time, that unsuspecting person turns out to be one Mr Sameer Mehra (Emraan Hashmi), who inexplicably agrees to be part of their “game” which involves a mock trial that, as time progresses, makes a mockery of law and screenwriting. The premise feels far-fetched, but even if we bought into the central conceit of the film, the writing (Ranjit Kapoor and Rumy) is so underwhelming that the frivolity of it all outweighs even the semblance of a wish to willingly suspend disbelief.
Long-winded conversations in a legal drama are par for the course, but this one has exactly ONE such conversation. No one, apart from an earnest but hapless Emraan, speaks in a non-legalese tone. At one point, Emraan’s Sameer looks like the real-life version of the “Am I a joke to you?” meme, and you empathise with him. Nothing that happens around him makes sense… neither to him nor to us. In fact, at one point, Sameer says, “Main thak gaya hoon… Main pak gaya hoon,” and I wanted to reach into the screen, give him a warm hug, and say, “We are on the same boat, brother.” The dialogues are lacklustre, and if there were anything else at all to distract us, we might have been able to overlook this flaw. However, when all you have is a never-ending barrage of words delivered in various dialects and baritones, there is very little else to focus on.
The unfortunate thing about Chehre is the underutilisation of the promising central conceit. There are glimpses of ideas that have immense potential. Hariya Jatav’s (Raghubir) casual demeanour fits nicely in the eclectic scheme of things. Krystle D'Souza's Natasha Oswal is a role that feels shoehorned into proceedings, and despite her committed portrayal, there is little about the entire portion that sits well with the rest of the film. While Rhea Chakraborty and Siddhant Kapoor are given interesting roles, their performances simply don’t cut it. Chehre needed liberal doses of eccentricity for us to be invested consistently in its 139-minute runtime. However, almost every other actor of this stellar cast plays it all too straight.
When we first meet the three angry old men, they are waiting for the fourth, who they fear might be stuck in the storm. Annu quickly says something on the lines of, “Yeh isse bhi bade toofan dekhe hain.” And it is only after this hat-tip to Toofan, the 1989 vigilante thriller, that we see an umbrella-holding Amitabh Bachchan walking into the house in slow-motion. Two decades since Big B stopped playing the typical commercial cinema hero, lines like these are still written for the OG Angry Young Man. While there is no doubt that it is impressive how writers continue to orchestrate films around this doyen of Hindi cinema, Chehre doesn’t do justice to the talent at its service.