The old carved-in-Bollywood truism that Amitabh Bachchan will always steal the show in any film is coming undone in Amazon Prime’s Chehre. Emraan Hashmi is the real screen-stealer in the thriller, and viewers are loving it. Wrapped in a faux fur-collared jacket and living in a snow-covered hill station in India, Hashmi might seem a bit ludicrous at first glance. But that is really where your laughter, if any, will fade while watching Chehre. You will wonder how, in nearly every scene, the actor has refashioned himself and grown consistently over the years. Having well and truly shed the ‘lover boy’ and ‘serial-kisser’ image from the 2000s, Hashmi is proving his mettle in overshadowing none other than Big B in the film.
With a refreshingly offbeat duo, the Emraan Hashmi-Amitabh Bachchan starrer has managed to top the list of the most-watched films on Amazon Prime. It follows Hashmi’s OTT appearance in the Netflix show, Bard of Blood (2018), which failed to make its mark among an audience that loves some thrill. However, Chehre, directed by Rumi Jaffery, revamps Hashmi into the charismatic Sameer Mehra who impresses his audience with his weighty dialogues and magnetic aura.
Hashmi vs Big B: The battle for glamour
In a candid interview, Emraan Hashmi highlighted how he did not want to miss a chance to work with Amitabh Bachchan. In all honesty, I am glad that Big B did not miss his chance of working with Hashmi.
Chehre reverses a widely-known legal adage to ‘guilty until proven innocent’. Hashmi is the deer caught in the spotlight of four old men who believe in ‘judgement’ over justice. Based on Friedrich Durrenmatt’s Die Panne, the film could perhaps be edited better, but Hashmi’s acting was spot-on.
His signature ‘bad boy’ image does sprout out when he engages in an affair with his boss’s wife and almost harasses the domestic worker, played by Rhea Chakraborty, who made her comeback on the screen after the Sushant Singh Rajput debacle last year. But the sultry is only a glamorous tangent to a film that reminds one of Agatha Christie thriller And Then There Were None, packing the elements of a timeless classic in two hours and 19 minutes. The movie almost has a kangaroo trial at its heart. More often than not, you will find yourself twistedly sympathising with the ‘criminal’ that Hashmi’s character is. And that is precisely how he steals the thunder of Amitabh Bachchan.
The ‘Serial Kisser’ of the 2000s
Chehre makes us almost forget our first encounter with the phenomenon of Emraan Hashmi. The infamous Murder song, ‘Bheege Honth Tere’ stamped upon our memories the Hashmi that was to be known for the next decade and a half. The playing of the song on an innocuous radio station would cause discomfort and glances across households with its ‘explicit’ lyrics. What Hashmi did in 2004 was just the beginning of a series of films where he was to play the ‘lovable’ rake, painting sex as a part of Bhatt films and the Indian mainstream cinema with a literal and metaphorical bang.
Chehre allows him to play out moments of that manipulation and seduction to swerve audience sentiment. But by now, it is something that he does well and, therefore, no longer the high point of his performance, which is telling about how much he has grown as an actor.
Many forget that Hashmi made his debut in the 2003 film Footpath, starring alongside Aftab Shivdasani and Bipasha Basu. His acting was critically acclaimed even back then. But after Murder, he immediately took on the ‘lover boy/bad boy’ that just stuck.
Hashmi was aware of it and basked in it; he would never shy away from the glory, and it was indeed refreshing to see him unapologetic about his image and work.
Why Sameer Mehra outshines Lateef
Big B’s role as a lawyer in Pink was not only impactful, but also became a cult, sparking conversations around consent and “No means No”. However, his Lateef in Chehre delivering a seven-minute monologue feels not just repetitive, but also lacks lustre. Despite Emraan not getting the best of lines, you really want to pause and listen, and that is the real twist: You want to be charmed by the ‘guilty’.
Sameer Mehra’s affair with his boss’s wife (played by Krystal D’Souza) is an uncanny reminder of the iconic date in Pulp Fiction. Hashmi is no John Travolta, but he is successful in carving out a way of delivering his very own brand of performance.
Hashmi’s Sameer takes charge of the show and despite best efforts, Amitabh Bachchan is never really allowed to hijack it. The face-off between the two is intense, and even when ‘good triumphs over evil’, Sameer stays with you more than Lateef.
In a few words, Chehre could be a weekend delight with its fresh combination of actors, talent and on-screen drama. Adding on to the Bollywood corpus of thrillers, Hashmi’s Sameer seems to be making his mark by being refreshingly original and delighting audiences with his enigma, played out brilliantly by the actor. Hashmi’s new avatar is most likely to stay with the actor’s fans long after they switch off their screens.
Views are personal.
(Edited by Humra Laeeq)
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