Famous Scottish author – Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novella – Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was first published in 1886 on which Hollywood movies were made under the title – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1920, 1931 and 1941. This classic story was adapted for theatre play and TV serial too. It’s a story based on the split personality disorder of a person, i.e., the state in which two different personalities reside in the same person out of which one remains active at a particular point of time and the person continues to switch over between them. Besides, as the novella showed one personality (which came into existence later than the first or the original one) is low in morals as compared to the other one, later on the phrase – ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ became almost a maxim to denote a person’s ethically contrasting activities in different situations. When the same person acts morally in one situation and immorally in some other, he is termed as Jekyll in the former and Hyde in the latter.
In India also, certain movies have been made on this concept viz. Deewaangee (2002) and Aparichit (2005). However they were the stories based on split personalities (real or fake) and not the original story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The only Bollywood movie which is a straightaway (and officially declared) adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde story is Chehre Pe Chehra (1980) starring Sanjeev Kumar (in the lead role), Rekha, Sulakshana Pandit, Shatrughan Sinha, Vinod Mehra, Amol Palekar etc.
Chehre Pe Chehra (a face over a face) tells the story of Dr. Wilson (Sanjeev Kumar) who is a workaholic scientist (all sincere scientists are actually workaholics only) who feels that every human-being has an element of being an angel as well as an element of being a devil in him. That’s why sometimes, even a good person becomes satanic in his behaviour whereas sometimes, a wicked one also becomes benevolent. He firmly believes that these two elements which remain intermixed in an individual’s personality can be segregated and then a medicine can be invented to eliminate the wicked or the undesirable element, thereby leaving only the desirable or the angelic element intact. He works hard on his theory and remains busy in inventing a potion to put his theory into effect.
The trouble comes when he experiments his invention on himself only. But the result is quite contrary to what he had theorized. His wicked persona gets segregated from the good one but it is stronger than its counterpart and he is not able to eliminate it. Like Hyde was for Dr. Jekyll in the classic work of Robert Louis Stevenson, Blackstone (the wicked part of the personality) becomes to Dr. Wilson. After several events in the screenplay, Dr. Wilson loses his life, repenting for trying to interfere with the nature. In this story whose protagonist is Dr. Wilson, there are several other characters also which are for all practical purposes, supporting ones only, viz. Daisy (Rekha), Diana (Sulakshana Pandit), David (Vinod Mehra), Peter (Amol Palekar), Barrister Sinha (Shatrughan Sinha), Maartha (Rajni Sharma), Kanhus (Amjad Khan) etc.
The problem that has always remained with the Bollywood filmmakers is that despite picking up good subject-matters, they fall into the trap of regular box office formulae instead of dealing with the plot at hand in the best possible way. This movie was made (and publicized) as a horror movie which was not at all required because there is no horror in it. The make-up used for the devilish persona of the protagonist is though not bad, is nowhere near to being something admirable. The writer-director duo could have dealt with this very good story in a superfine way, canning the regular formule and avoiding an attempt to make a horror movie. In those days, horror movies were made by the Ramsays with B grade cast whereas this movie boasts of A grade stars like Sanjeev Kumar, Rekha, Sulakshana Pandit, Amol Palekar, Shatrughan Sinha etc. Putting it straight, justice could not be done to this novel story idea which is an adaptation of the famous story. Almost all the characters of the story have been shown as Christians and a Christian milieu only has been used. Then there was ample scope to present the story in an impressive manner but the filmmaker wasted the opportunity.
The movie has been carried by late Sanjeev Kumar on his strong shoulders and it is worth a watch due to himself only because all others have not got much scope to do anything worthwhile. Technically, the movie is strictly ok. Among the songs composed by N. Dutta, Unse Kehna Hai Ki (Sulakshana Pandit) and Aaj Socha Hai Khayaalon Mein (Mohammed Rafi and Sulakshana Pandit) remain in memory after the movie is over. However Saahir Ludhiyanvi has penned meaningful lyrics for all the songs.
Summing up, Chehre Pe Chehra may not be liked by those who have read the novella – The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or technically better Hollywood movies made on this story. However this is not a poor movie as such and at least the admirers of Sanjeev Kumar will be able to appreciate it.
© Copyrights reserved