Rumi Jaffery’s Chehre is one tiring effort, to say the least. It doesn’t help that this problematic and poorly conceived take on law/justice extends for a full 139 minutes.

The narrative kicks off with a forgettable opening gambit: Bachchan sahib, atop a chair, dressed in funereal black, and sporting a half-crazed look in his eye, breaks the fourth wall, yammering about the many masks humans don through life.

The lines attempt to peddle some form of warped ideology pertaining to two-facedness. If you watch further, the scene is presumably a metaphor for a higher court (one of conscience, if you will) where people’s Janus-like behaviour is exposed and punished… something our existing system fails to achieve.

This initial five minutes present a sequence with multiple Amitabh Bachchans appearing and disappearing after delivering supposedly prophetic monologues. Build-up is accorded through his booming delivery and the imagery of lightning and thunder.

Despite a long list of actors, the plot experiences, what I’d like to call, blatant Bachchanisation.

Every conceivable frame pays unsubtle homage to him and his character. Even as the overdone mansion mock-trial comes to a close, his Lateef Zaidi is permitted by retired Justice Jagdish Acharya (Dhritiman Chatterjee) to go on a minutes’ long closing argument about the woeful state of affairs in the Indian judicial system. While Bachchan’s sheer range is compelling in this scene, as he puts forth documented accounts of rape victims being treated unjustly by our courts, what relevance it has to the story of the accused, is beyond me.

Emraan Hashmi’s Sameer Mehra is your typically entitled, cocksure man willing to do anything it takes to make it big. The guy isn’t likeable, being prone to much manipulation, but placing him in the same bracket as the most dangerous criminals, is quite the stretch. Just because you’re a lousy person who may have sold your soul for a variety of reasons, doesn’t automatically make you eligible for the court’s harshest verdict.

This is perhaps the most flawed argument put forth in Chehre – that every accused found guilty, immaterial of the crime, must be meted out the same kind of vigilante justice. In some sense, the film romanticises the philosophy of ‘an eye for an eye’.

As Sameer rightly points out, after hearing his sentence, “Agar main doshi hoon, phir tum sab bhi ho. Tum mein se ek hai jisne kabhi galti na ki, galat raasta na chuna?” (If I am guilty, then so are you all. Is there one among you who hasn’t ever made a mistake or chosen the wrong path?)

This ruthless judge-jury-executioner business is in and of itself an extremely problematic take on right and wrong. What Rumi Jaffery and Ranjit Kapoor fail to realise in their script is that the law is meant to be fair and humane. And no matter how much Lateef Zaidi stresses about those who have been failed by the system, how can he miss the underlying hypocrisy in his own insular khap panchayat setup?

The film gets muddled in a convoluted vortex of communication. Most ideas of justice are regressive, not to mention rooted in vengeance. By the end of it, it is hard to put a finger on what exactly the film is trying to say. It attempts to infuse the elements of a thriller into a courtroom-type atmosphere, but underperforms on both counts.

The biggest problem with Chehre is its first half. Hashmi overdoes the part of a man attempting to size up the odd group of former law professionals he finds himself in the midst of. Nothing in his reactions or dialogue is redeemable.

Rhea Chakraborty’s Aana is an utter disappointment too. Her chehra is the expressionless mask to beat all expressionless masks. It is altogether possible she is fitting into character, but going by her performance in Jalebi, not emoting adequately may just be her go-to move. With the exception of Bachchan and Chatterjee, the acting is substandard. Not entirely the fault of the cast, as the conception, writing and dialogue are irreparably bad.

What is perhaps most laughable, is to see the outwardly cocky Sameer Mehra fall for the dodgy deceptions of the hillside mansion residents. Even a person with fewer grey cells would think twice before partaking in a game where the rules are heavily skewed in favour of the hosts.

****

The Chehre review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.