'Ittefaq' review: Murder by coincidence

Murder mystery: Akshaye Khanna, Sonakshi Sinha, Shah Rukh Khan and Sidharth Malhotra at a promotional event in Mumbai  

If there has been one worthy successor to Yash Chopra’s Ittefaq (1969) it has to be Ram Gopal Verma’s Kaun (1999). The individual stories might be widely different but both work on similar principles of a thriller. One restricted space—a home; a limited set of characters—one of whom has to be the murderer; a straight yet complicated situation—with a body popping out of nowhere. In both the cases it’s more about incessant talk than flamboyant action, about building tension and creating momentum in a defined, static frame with twists and turns emanating organically from the plot.

The element of coincidence unites the old Ittefaq with the new—a man on the run for the murder of his wife lands up in a stranger’s house to find another murder lurking there. Director Abhay Chopra decides to update the old by doing cool new things. So he even brings in an Aram Nagar subplot and a lot more of the outdoors than in the original. The physical action also comes in, in a bigger way. So there are chases and accident, a perennial wetness of being what with the incessant rains, Mumbai framed in a gothic, surreal manner and a colour palette of steel greys and dreary blues. The flickering tube-light, the close-up of sambhar and khichadi on the plateful of food in the prison, the screechy dragging of a chair—every shot is made to scream mood and atmosphere. Yet you can't shrug off all the clichés of an Abbas Mustan brand of thriller. There are the usual cringing, bumbling cops, all in a bid to insert some desperate humour—the one called Tambe is particularly excruciating. Then there’s the detective—too in your face in his eccentricity to be cool. He calls his wife “babe”, wipes his shoes with a hanky and sports furrowed brows and a creased forehead, a typical Akshaye Khanna expression. Also, instead of the one crucial day/night the new Ittefaq spans three days. Or is it more? After a point one loses interest in where one day ends and another begins, more so because there’s hardly any daylight in the film. One even loses interest in who the killer is.

The deliciousness of a whodunit for readers/viewers lies in the red herrings and clues strewn all over the plot, which we are never able to see. The big reveal then rouses you, often takes you back to the same work to figure where you had been outsmarted. Here the many versions of truth, don’t tickle any interest, don't keep you guessing. The random twists and turns seem shoved in artificially from outside, almost like an afterthought. It makes the uncovering a downer.

The result: the old Ittefaq, despite you knowing the spoiler, can still hold you in thrall. The new one, despite making a marketing strategy out of a spoiler, just isn’t thrilling enough.

Director: Abhay Chopra

Cast: Sidharth Malhotra, Sonakshi Sinha, Akshaye Khanna

Storyline: Two murders, two suspects and one investigating officer

Run time: 107.48 minutes


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Printable version | Jun 18, 2021 12:11:26 AM |

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