Before the Yash Chopra film’s remake releases on 3 November, we revisit the original crime thriller which hit the theatres on 10 October 1969.
Revisiting BR Films’ original Ittefaq
Mumbai - 06 Oct 2017 9:00 IST
Updated : 02 Oct 2019 9:04 IST
BR Films’ Ittefaq (1969) arrived in a landmark year for its actor Rajesh Khanna. Only five films old, he was yet to taste success even after Shakti Samanta’s Aradhana (1969) and, therefore, could afford to feature in a crime thriller, that was without a song.
Directed by Yash Chopra, Ittefaq came on the heels of a super hit Waqt (1965) and the multi-starrer Aadmi Aur Insaan (1969). Yash decided to change his cinematic tactics with Ittefaq. The film was shot between the shoot schedules of Aadmi Aur Insaan (1969). It was a tough task as the entire project was completed in a tight schedule of just 20 days.
The Hindi film was adapted from the Gujarati play, Dhummas (Fog), starring Arvind Joshi and Sarita Joshi, and helmed by legendary theatre actor-director Pravin Joshi (brother of Arvind and husband of Sarita). Dhummas, in turn, was adapted from an English play, Signpost to Murder, which was made into a Hollywood film starring Joanne Woodward and Stuart Whitman in 1965. The play was also staged in Marathi.
The film’s screenplay is credited to the BR Films' Story Department and dialogues to Akhtar-Ul-Iman. Rajesh Khanna and Nanda were seen in the lead roles, with a strong supporting cast of actors including Iftekhar, Madan Puri, Gajanan Jagirdar, Sujit Kumar, Bindu and Shammi.
Ittefaq opens with police vans and motorbikes, in a hurry, trying to get somewhere and the next scene is a point-of-view shot bringing the audience inside a crowded home, where the body of a woman lies on a bed. The camera cuts to the protagonist, Dilip Roy (Rajesh Khanna), who screams on seeing his dead wife, Sushma (Alka).
Renu (Bindu) informs the police that it is her brother-in-law, Roy who killed her sister Sushma. An enraged Roy denies the allegations and threatens Renu, but is taken away by the police.
Renu then, in a flashback, narrates the events. Roy and Sushma were prone to fights. On the night of their wedding anniversary, the couple is invited for a party hosted in their honour. But Roy, a painter, refuses to attend it and wants to finish his painting. Sushma, angry that her husband spends no time with her, ruins his prized painting and Roy kills her in a fit of rage.
The courtroom scene is stylistically shot, with only Khanna visible, standing in the witness box in an empty room. One can only see the silhouettes of the judge, and other officials. Roy is sent to a mental hospital until it is determined whether he was sane while committing the murder.
Prosecutor Mr Khanna (Madan Puri) and inspector Diwan (Sujit Kumar) gather at the hospital to discuss the case with Dr Trivedi (Gajanan Jagirdar), who is handed the responsibility of treating Roy. One stormy night, after accusing everyone of plotting against him, Roy steals a gun from inspector Diwan and escapes, despite high security.
An announcement of his escape is made on the radio. But even before the broadcast finishes, Roy is seen inside Rekha's (Nanda) house. Thereafter, over a long night, Rekha tries to unsuccessfully hide Roy from her neighbours and the police.
Tense, distrustful moments follow as the dead body of Rekha’s husband, Jagmohan, is discovered in the house. Who is the murderer? The mental patient or the lonely, dutiful wife? The answer will eventually be found by CID inspector Karve (Iftekhar) and Khan (Jagdish Raj).
The plot of Ittefaq takes many twists and turns, which is a good thing, keeping the audience on its toes in anticipation. Roy and Rekha commiserate with each other about their failed marriages and incompatibility with their partners, before the plot again takes a crucial twist.
Since the film is adapted from a play, much of the action takes place in one location — Rekha's house. Yash Chopra won his second Filmfare award for best director for Ittefaq. He was assisted on the film by his cousin Ravi (son of BR), Ramesh Talwar (who made his directorial debut, Doosara Aadmi, with Yash Raj Films in 1977) and Arvind Joshi (the lead actor on Dhummas).
Thankfully, the film has no songs, although, the tension is hightened by the background music scored by Salil Chowdhury (credited as Salil Chaudhary). Unfortunately, Rajesh Khanna puts out a loud performance as the deranged Dilip Roy. Nanda as Rekha is far more believable.
BR Chopra’s grandson Abhay has remade this classic film with Sidharth Malhotra, Sonakshi Sinha and Akshaye Khanna. The new Ittefaq is due to be released on 3 November. Hopefully, the remake will retain certain elements and update others.
Sarita Joshi had told Cinestaan.com in 2016 that she hoped the film could be taken further with today’s technology. "Actually, [Yashji] made the film with such simplicity. He made the film just like the play. I believe the film can be presented even more powerfully today," Joshi had said.
Furthermore, there are some aspects from the 1969 film that could be scrapped altogether. Dilip Roy’s penchant for violence towards women (threatening to kill them, slapping them) reads back as worrisome when viewed in 2017. Additionally, like the original, it would be beneficial if they do not include songs. It seems unlikely for characters to burst into songs while being held hostage.