Movie Review: Ittefaq
One of the most anticipated Indian movies of the year, Ittefaq is a fast-paced, nail-biting thriller that does not disappoint. From the get-go, it draws the audience in with a high-speed car chase through Mumbai’s thoroughfares during rush hour. The pricey vehicle collides into another, somersaults in mid-air, and crash-lands upside down — but miraculously the driver manages to drag himself out of the totalled car. As pedestrians converge to assist him, the sound of an approaching police car sets him off into a run, with the police now pursuing him on foot.
Being young and agile, the man succeeds in dodging the pot-bellied cops through crowded streets and markets, but they persist with their search around the area. Suddenly, without warning, a panicked young woman confronts one of the police contingents and leads them to her apartment. Here the police find the absconder standing over a dead body — that of a lawyer, Shakher Senna, the husband of the young woman, Maya (Sonakshi Sinha). Strange coincidence?
As the plot thickens, Inspector Dev Verma (Akshaye Khanna) is woken from a deep slumber to investigate what clearly appears to be a crime. At the murder scene, he learns that the case he is about to investigate is a high profile one, as the man found at the crime scene — Vikram Sethi (Sidharth Malhotra), a British national of Indian extract — is an internationally acclaimed mystery writer.
As Sethi’s arrest is broadcast over the TV channels, the inspector is instructed by his superiors that because of mounting political pressure he is to solve the murder case in three days.
Frustrated by the imposed deadline, as well as by the incompetence of his subordinates, Inspector Dev begins his interrogation. We learn that on the same night as Senna’s death, there was also the mysterious death of Katherine, Sethi’s wife, whom he found dead in their hotel room after his return from the launch party of his new book. She had specially flown in from the UK as the CEO of the publishing house that was promoting his book. Another coincidence?
Sethi pleads innocence about his wife’s death, but Inspector Dev is sceptical about his contention — that he called the police immediately upon discovering her body, especially since he fled when the police arrived at the hotel, and wants to question him further. And ironically, Sethi then ends up taking refuge in another crime scene.
Facts, they say, are stranger than fiction, and here events are so bizarre that they could only be true. The inspector considers the plausibility of the two versions of the crime he is faced with — Sethi’s and Maya’s. Sethi claims Senna was already dead when he got to the scene, and holds Maya responsible for the murder of her husband, who often left her alone for long hours while he worked. She, meanwhile, tries to pin it on Sethi. Maya insists that Sethi had forced himself into the house when he was fleeing from the police, and killed her husband while he was trying to save her from Sethi who had her in his grip. The movie is a sophisticated whodunnit right until the tail end, and revolves around various scenarios of two crimes that may involve a love triangle, hence the tagline: ‘2 murders, 2 suspects, 2 versions.’
Ittefaq is an adaptation of Yash Chopra’s 1969 suspense film-drama by the same name, starring Rajesh Khanna and Nanda. First time director and Yash Chopra’s grandson, Abhay Chopra, has taken the theme of two dead spouses, but not the exact 1960s story from his grandfather’s original film, in which the two lead characters, painter Rajesh Khanna and homemaker Nanda, are trapped in shaky marriages and have plausible motive to rid themselves of their respective partners.
In this new version, Abhay Chopra introduces his own twists and turns of love, seduction and betrayal, which give the film an intense pace and keep the audience intrigued. It is Akshaye Khanna as the mistrustful investigator with a dry humour, who shines on screen with his sterling presence and he is the glue that binds the entire film. Sonakshi Sinha and Sidharth Malhotra’s performances, however, are a poor second, both coming across as rather wooden in the dramatic scenes. Nonetheless, with taut direction and sharp editing, Bollywood filmmaking has come a long way in the last five decades, producing thrillers like Ittefaq, that, flaws notwithstanding, keep the audience on tenterhooks.
The writer is a documentary filmmaker and activist. She is working with the Newsline as editorial assistant.
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