Ittefaq Review

Sonakshi Sinha and Sidharth Malhotra are seen in a still from the film “Ittefaq,” which the makers claim to be the remake of Rajesh Khanna-starrer 1969 thriller of the same name. (photo provided)

Red Chillies Entertainment, Dharma Productions and BR Studios present “Ittefaq”

Produced by: Hiroo Johar, Renu Ravi Chopra, Gauri Khan & Karan Johar

Directed by: Abhay Chopra

Written by: Abhay Chopra, Shreyas Jain & Nikhil Mehrotra

Music: BT & John Stewart Eduri

Starring: Akshaye Khanna, Sonakshi Sinha, Sidharth Malhotra, Mandira Bedi, Himanshu Kohli, Ajay Jadhav, Pavail Gulati, Samir Sharma, Kimberley McBeath, Vinay Sharma, Romil, Hitesh Arora, Jitendra Shastri, Sanyukta Timsina and others

It is all about the chronic obsession to be over smart and different for the heck of it. The story of “Ittefaq” (a superb adaptation and Indianization of a European play) 48 years ago was so perfect that Abhay Chopra, director and co-writer, decided to turn the plot on its head and claim that it was a remake with changes.

I have said it before, and I will say it again: it takes humongous talent to reboot any classic, with or without changes. Notice how Ram Gopal Varma himself botched up his version of “Ittefaq” in “Kaun” (1999), substituting form (scares, lighting, sounds) for content and making one of the biggest mishaps of that year.

The way to go about a remake with changes that at least matches, if not overtakes, the original, needs a David Dhawan (“Judwaa 2”) or peak-time Sooraj R. Barjatya (“Hum Aapke Hain Koun…!” from “Nadiya Ke Paar”), to give two preeminent examples. Newcomer Abhay Chopra falls short in a crucial department: its execution from paper to screen!

Make no mistake: “Ittefaq” tries hard. The basic change in plot works on paper but fails miserably in execution. This is a script that should not have gone past the drawing board without multiple improvements. The flaws and loopholes are gaping: no one explains how a detective cop (Akshaye Khanna) calls a subordinate (!!) to stop a flight but ends up talking to the criminal. No one explains how a candid confession as a conversation on a mobile phone cannot be taken as hardcore evidence enough to reopen a case. One more crucial flaw in the forensic evidence would be a spoiler, so we will not mention it.

Okay, okay, so what is the plot? Celebrated writer Vikram Sethi (Sidharth Malhotra) has to launch his book, but his wife-cum-publisher Katherine (Kimberley McBeath) cannot make it to the event. When he returns, he finds her dead in a pool of blood. He calls the cops, who suspect and try to arrest (!) him, but he gives them the slip.

They chase him in a car through Mumbai’s streets; his car overturns and is smashed, and yet the man comes out unhurt. He actually runs for whole blocks with the cops in hot pursuit before landing up for help in the house of counsel Shekhar Sinha (Samir Sharma), whose wife Maya (Sonakshi Sinha) opens the door.

She is alone, watching television in a negligee (the door obviously does not have peepholes, and the apartment is a few stories up, and no one thinks why Vikram heads there, nor is this relevant part mentioned later). A short while later, Vikram is arrested for the murder of her husband Shekhar as well since Maya slips away and calls the (same!) cops there.

From here on, Dev takes over, and the investigation begins. Dev gets inspirations from strokes of luck (or should that be coincidences, as the title means that?) as he gravitates between hardcore evidence and the two separate versions he gets from Vikram and Maya about what happened that night.

Finally, Shekhar’s killer is arrested. But who killed Katherine? Was it really a heart attack (she has a congenital heart problem) as reported by the post-mortem analysis? And is there a link apart from Vikram between the two murders?

With a few minor changes, this whodunit could have been a crack thriller on paper (that is, as a book). But as a film, it flounders badly despite a basic cast-iron plot and some interesting touches in the denouement of both the murders. Chopra needs to hone his directorial skills in two ways: first, junk those many amateurish touches found throughout but especially in the first 20 minutes, like the needless scene with the watchdog and the crass conversation between the cop and the watchman, or the inane humor that prevails during the cops’ mutual interactions. But even more, he needs to improve his script sense. The car chase is redundant, a choice of a silly and absurd use of form over content in the way it culminates. There is another major gaffe in the Katherine murder case that would be a spoiler to give away. But suffice to say that it ranks among the biggest errors ever in any whodunit in Hindi cinema!

Like the 1969 film (from which this takes only the basic premise), this film too is songless. The background music is by someone called BT under the supervision of renowned BGM name John Stewart Eduri, whatever that means, and is serviceable. The script, as we said, is a huge letdown and though we must praise Michael Luka’s camerawork and tones and Bindiya Chhabria’s production design, Nitin Baid’s editing keeps things boringly snail-paced.

A placidly moving thriller has its charm, but that is when it has a punch in the whole graph and a subtly gripping atmospheric feel, both of which are lacking here. And barring a few lines spoken by Khanna, there is no fire in the dialogues.

Akshaye Khanna, as predictable, keeps the film on toes as much as he can alone. He is in form as an ace detective, going beyond “36 China Town” and “Mom.” Sidharth Malhotra does well in a surprisingly undemanding role, considering he is the prime suspect. Sonakshi Sinha is alright too, but not very different from her usual self except in the passing sequences of seduction. However, but for Ajay Jadhav as constable Tambe, the supporting cast is completely wasted. A shrewd watcher of whodunits will realize that almost all of them can be safely eliminated as potential murderers.

We would have liked to give such a film (on the basis of its plot and its smart connection to the original film) a higher rating, but the plodding and uninteresting narration and flawed treatment make us remove one star and only acknowledge the effort made.

Rating: **1/2

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