Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Emraan Hashmi, Annu Kapoor, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Raghuveer Yadav, Rhea Chakraborty, Crystal d’Souza
Directed by Rumi Jaffrey
A snow blizzard drives the wizard of awe far beyond the precincts of the plot, into a tirade against all atrocities and crimes committed against women. He speaks about Nirbhaya and acid attacks, women being made to relive the trauma of rape each time they attend a court hearing. He speaks. Everyone on the screen and in the audience, listens.
“There is no nyay only faisla,” the Bachchan baritone boomed across the big screen as I sat listening and watching, wondering, are there no fulltops to this actor’s aspirations?
Chehre is a chamber-piece which echoes Agatha Christie’s 12 Little Indians and Basu Chatterjee’s Ek Ruka Hua Faisla in that the concept of justice is discussed within the confines of the four walls.
Director Rumy Jaffrey has a sound understanding of spatial rhythms and cloistered harmonies. He allows the characters’ movements to be fluid in the confines of a one-location setting allowing them to dine, whine and shine with surreptitious seamlessness.
The film has a deliberately stagey look, which is the required mood in the drama of dissent as it flows among four retired custodians of the judiciary getting together to harangue a stranger who happened be be passing by.
I must say Emraan Hashmi plays the stranger-in-danger with much relish. He brings a swiveling chuckle to his part as the ambitious entrepreneur with a dirty past. Though the drama is driven by the Bachchan’s tireless zest for peeling the onion of the existential conundrum, Hashmi manages to hold his own, allowing us to overlook some of the works glaring deficiencies, the poor acting by the two female actors, for example.
Not their fault. This is a guy’s story. And the male actors rip into their roles with wolfish relish. Annu Kapoor and Dhritiman Chatterjee are a pleasurably clued into their characters. Raghuvir Yadav who plays the fourth judicial pillar in a mock-trial that is constructed with devastating diligence, is saddled with an underwritten character, as does Siddhant Kapoor, the only mute character in this verbose drama.
But it is the mighty Bachchan who presides over the plot. Lording over the legalese he is at once the judge and the jury, the wounded and the warrior.
Oh yes, there is another super-hero in Chehre. The cinematographer Binod Pradhan shoots the film in a striking semi-sepia sweep of rusty brows and glittering greys. Between them, Mr Bachchan and Mr Pradhan make Chehre an out-of-courtroom legal drama like never before.
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