Chehre (2021) Review!!

Synopsis – A story about the decisions one makes in their lifetime and the fact that every decision has its repercussions, hearing and judgment.

My Take – Right from its setting, along with the cast and crew involved, this dialogue heavy thriller which aimed to show contempt towards the current world’s chase of ambitions, money, and success, had a lot going for it. But then it ends up dashing all those expectations comprehensively, leaving you with a convoluted and tedious mess.

Unsurprising considering that the film is directed and co-written by Rumi Jaffery, whose earlier directorial efforts comprises of lackluster comedies like God Tussi Great Ho (2008), Life Partner (2009), and Gali Gali Chor Hai (2012), and whose most recent writing gig was last year’s atrocious Coolie No. 1 remake, who never seemed fit or prepared to take on the genre. Working as an unofficial adaption of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s 1956 novel Die Panne (A Dangerous Game), the film is without a doubt heavy on conversations, but light on story and at times unnecessarily preachy.

Though majority of the 139 minute film is peppered with deliberate attempts at creating shadowy moments devoted to arguments between the various characters, but backed by an undercooked, stodgy plot, even the best ensemble in the world fails thoroughly, and once the proceedings become routine, the experience quickly becomes awfully tedious.

Sure, given the absurd twists and turns, the film is never unwatchable, but its inconsistent tone and plot holes does make you frustratingly feel for the lost opportunity and the greatness it could have achieved.

The story follows Sameer Mehra (Emraan Hashmi), an executive who has recently taken over an advertising company, who while driving through the outskirts of Delhi finds himself stranded in the thickly Arctic layers of snow valley. With rescue and services hours or possibly days away from clearing the pathway, Sameer ends up accepting offer from a jolly stranger, retired Defense Counsel Paramjeet Bhullar (Annu Kapoor), to join him in taking shelter in an isolated magnificent colonial mansion owned by his friend retired Judge Jagdish Acharya (Dhritiman Chatterjee), were a welcoming fireplace and a well-stocked bar awaits them.

While the mansion filled by a retired Hangman Hariya Jatak (Raghubir Yadav), a young housemaid Anna (Rhea Chakraborty) and a mute Man Friday Joe (Siddhant Kapoor), seems harmless at first sight, things begin to get weird when the last house guest of the evening, retired Prosecutor Lateef Zaidi (Amitabh Bachchan), challenges Sameer to take part in their game in which they conduct mock trials based on actual and made-up misdemeanors to maintain their legal acumen.

Though he accepts and is quick to declare that he has never done anything wrong, despite making unsolicited passes at Anna, however, once Zaidi starts building a murder case against him through a combination of sheer guesswork and sweeping assumptions, Sameer begins to find himself in much deeper waters than he could have imagined.

Going by the premise, the film guaranteed to be a promising thriller with noble intentions of making a social commentary on lawlessness, judiciary proceedings and life in general. The first half too ends on a promising note, set within the claustrophobic confines of an isolated mansion were communications with the outside world are severed.

Sadly, the unbelievably shoddy writing undoes everything as the film opens up to reveal the skeletons in Sameer’s closet, whose unraveling is so sloppily done that it drains the film of all thrills.

In the second half, the film becomes an unapologetically dull courtroom thriller that is never competent enough to instill the required tension to latch on, nor is it captivating enough to execute any of its predictable twists.

Conversations drive this film, and sometimes, they work well. Watching veteran performers effortlessly tackle dense Hindi dialogue bring back memories of better films, but these conversations also weigh in heavily on its pace slowing it down to a point where the inefficient story gets further highlighted.

Here, director Rumi Jaffery and co-writer Ranjit Kapoor are so caught up in their own verbosity that it becomes tough to suspend disbelief and burdensome to sit through it all, especially when you realize that film apparently wants to give an argument in favor of extrajudicial executions and vigilantism. But the message itself is so overelaborated that despite the right amount of heart behind it, it ends up feeling preachy and doesn’t hold up.

Leaving the performances of the cast to act as its only saving grace. Though surprisingly billed as ‘Friendly Appearance’ in the opening credits, Amitabh Bachchan is front and center of the film. His nuances and his ability to pull off the best lines with his elegant baritone make his performance as real as a veteran lawyer’s arguments in court. Given how proficient he is with his monologues, his more than 10-minute long speech here is one of the film’s high points. Though clearly out-of-context, his powerful tone latches you on till he is done.

Usually playing the sneaky and snarky antihero, Emraan Hashmi once again slips into a genre he is comfortable with and manages to take charge despite the forces working against him. In other roles, Annu Kapoor, Dhritiman Chatterjee and Raghubir Yadav lend in good support, while Rhea Chakraborty and Krystle D’Souza manage well despite their underwritten characters. Unfortunately, Siddhanth Kapoor and Samir Soni are wasted. On the whole, ‘Chehre’ is a tedious thriller let down by its sloppy and inconsistent writing.

Directed – Rumi Jaffery

Starring – Amitabh Bachchan, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Krystle D’Souza

Rating – PG13

Run Time – 139 minutes

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