Ittefaq review: Akshaye Khanna's slick performance drives this gripping whodunnit 

Release Date: 03 Nov 2017 / Rated: U/A / 01hr 47min

Cinestaan Rating

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Suparna Thombare

Director Abhay Chopra's thriller is a cold, efficient upgrade to the 1969 original.

Ittefaq, directed by Abhay Chopra is a remake of 1969 film by the same name directed by his grand uncle Yash Chopra and produced by his grandfather BR Chopra. The original was an adaptation of the Gujarati play, Dhumas.

While the original plays out in a linear fashion in almost a play-like manner, this new version moves forward through flashbacks during interrogation and the corresponding investigation. 

The film begins with Vikram Sethi, who we later learn is a writer (Sidharth Malhotra) accused of his wife's murder, being chased by cops, as he speeds away in his Merc.

Soon we see Maya (Sonakshi Sinha) running down the stairs to the police vehicle, and as cops make way to her apartment they find Vikram standing over the dead body of Maya's husband, Shekhar. 

Senior cop Dev (Akshaye Khanna) is called in to investigate the double murder, with heavy Mumbai rains playing the perfect foil for the suspense to fester before the real killer/killers can be unmasked. 

There are two different versions of the same story in Rashomon style (1950 Japanese film) and two suspects — Maya and Vikram. The style was recently used effectively in Meghna Gulzar's Talvar (2015) too. The pendulum of suspicion keeps shifting between the two throughout as evidence keeps cropping up in their defence or against them.

Who do you believe? Who is telling the truth? Are both of them lying? Is there a third person involved? Who is the real murderer?

Revisiting BR Films’ original Ittefaq

While Vikram's version hints that Shekhar was already dead when he arrived on the scene and that he didn't kill his wife either, Maya's statement puts the blame on Vikram. 

The biggest challenge in remaking a suspense thriller like Ittefaq is incorporating the technological and forensic advances since the late 1960s era, which it manages to do really well. Eliminating the one big give away — CCTV cameras, gives the thriller the breathing space it needs. Dev's deadline to solve the case within three days further eliminates the possibilities that could emerge with more time. 

Sinha and Malhotra are decent, but perhaps a certain emotional depth and range would have made them more engaging as two people who are really difficult to judge as they desperately try to prove their innocence. Nevertheless, the onus here is more on the story-telling than the performances of the film's prime suspects. 

Casting Khanna as the investigating cop (played by the 1960s and 1970s staple police officer Iftekhar in the original) is a master move as he keeps things together with his on-screen brilliance, perfectly executing the smart observations and wry sense of humour of his character.  

The police banter and some of their shoddy work is entertaining, despite its predictable use as an element to lighten up the proceedings. 

There are some glitches in the writing. How did the police manage to match the blood without taking a blood sample from one of the suspects? Did one of the prime suspects know there were no CCTV cameras? Why weren't the cellphone locations checked in 3 days? These though are minor issues once you are completely absorbed in the drama.

While twists are an expected key to creating a slick modern-day suspense thriller, director Abhay Chopra makes sure that you are engaged in how things are unfolding too. 

The gripping first half just whisks by and the second half too wastes no time in revealing more details of the night of the murder. 

Director Abhay manages to do a good job of taking an old story and upping the ante in the screenplay department. He exchanges melodrama and subplots for cold and efficient narration. It's surely a great upgrade to the original. Cinematographer Michal Luka's filters and mellow lighting further serve the purpose of this thriller. 

Wish the last scene had played out just a little differently to make the film stand out from other films in this genre. 

If you have seen the original and you are able to predict the twists before they come, this remake will still keep you intrigued enough to hold your attention till the end.

Expectedly things unravel right at the end — a classic trope in a murder mystery, and voila you have a smart, gripping whodunnit.