Every time a film presents different versions of the same story, the film critics can't help but compare it to Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950). A couple of examples that come to mind are Rakhi Gulzar's Talvar (2015) and Sudhir Mishra's Inkaar (2013). In Abhay Chopra's Ittefaq, a remake of the 1969 film of the same name, we learn that a famous author is charged for committing two murders on the same night: his wife, and a lawyer whose house he accidentally breaks into while trying to escape.
Throughout the interrogation, the author maintains that he is innocent. However, his account of what actually happened that night completely differs from the account of the dead lawyer's wife. Now, all those who have compared Ittefaq with Rashomon are clearly missing the point. The fact of the matter is that in Rashomon, Kurosawa never makes an attempt to lead the viewer. He merely shows us the same event from four different points of view. Rashomon doesn't feed us with lies, only the different faces of truth. Ittefaq, on the other hands, keeps feeding us with lies. Alas, even the lies are not good enough to be deemed believable!
When a Rohit Shetty no-brainer like Golmaal Again (2017) tells you "Iss Diwali Logic Nahin Sirf Magic", you can perhaps afford to suspend logic but when a murder mystery expects you to forget logic then you just can't help but question the competency of the makers.
When a Rohit Shetty no-brainer like "Golmaal Again" (2017) tells you "Iss Diwali Logic Nahin Sirf Magic", you can perhaps afford to suspend logic but when a murder mystery expects you to forget logic then you just can't help but question the competency of the makers. Now, Ittefaq has been described as smart and gripping by some. While the film is certainly gripping for the most part, calling it smart would be a grave misjudgment. In Ittefaq's big reveal towards the end, the killer, minutes before boarding an international flight, confesses to the investigating officer during a telephonic conversation and offers a detailed account of the chain of events leading to the crime.
The officer is so thrilled to hear the killer's exhilarating account that he just doesn't seem interested in exercising the protocol needed to prevent the airplane from taking off. If that's not difficult enough to digest then just imagine how the police, during the course of investigation, can't figure out that the author's wife happened to be a client of the lawyer's. Isn't this connection the key to solving the two murders? How come an investigating officer who is smart enough to trace the hidden murder weapon is unable to figure out this basic fact? The film very conveniently tries to mislead us for nearly two hours, only to set us up for one lofty final twist in the vein of The Usual Suspects, merely adding insult to injury.
"When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
Whenever one speaks of crime and investigation a reference to Sir Authur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes is inevitable. "When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth," says the super-sleuth in the short story titled "The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier" (1926). Ittefaq fails to pay any heed to this basic science of deduction. The end result is an average whodunit that seems to have little regard for the viewer's intelligence. Another time tested tool to assess suspense thrillers is to watch them a second or a third time. While films like "Murder on the Orient Express" (2017), "Gone Girl" (2014), "Teesri Manzil" (1966), "Manorama Six Feet Under" (2007) and "Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!" (2015) would hold up well on subsequent viewings, an average film like Ittefaq will most likely struggle to hold the viewer's attention during a second or a third viewing. In comparison to the remake, the original, directed by Yash Chopra, is more than capable of holding the viewer's attention on subsequent viewings, even after all these years.
Usually it's the movie's plot and performances that can make it worthy of subsequent viewings. The editing, direction, cinematography and background score can of course immensely add to the overall experience. Take the case of Shekhar Kapoor and Karan Razdan-directed detective television series "Tehkikaat" which used to air on Doordarshan during the mid-90s. While the performances were a wee bit melodramatic and the plots often lacked the brilliance of a Sherlock Holmes or a Byomkesh Bakshi, the chilling background score and the camerawork added a different layer of mystery.
It's a bit perplexing to think why the makers, especially given its co-produced by Dharma Productions, Red Chillies Entertainment, and B.R. Studios, didn't focus on at least getting a strong background score in place? With the exception of Akshaye Khanna, Ittefaq is also quite average on the acting front. While Sonakshi Sinha has her moments in the movie, Sidharth Malhotra looks a bit flat. But he alone can't be blamed for it, for an average part requires an above-average actor. Given his limitations as a performer, Sidharth seems to have tried his best but unfortunately on this occasion his best just doesn't turn out to be good enough. Ittefaq offers promise to begin with but ultimately it fails to leave any lasting impact. The film can serve as a decent way to spend your free time when you have nothing better to indulge in and that too only as long as you can do away with any logical thinking.
A version of this review was first published in A Potpourri of Vestiges.