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A millennial watches the original Ittefaq: The only mystery is why they are making it again

We got a millennial to watch the original Ittefaq starring Rajesh Khanna and Nanda to find out if it really needed a remake.

bollywood Updated: Nov 02, 2017 15:05 IST
Soumya Srivastava
Soumya Srivastava
Hindustan Times
Ittefaq,Ittefaq Original,Watching Old Ittefaq
Rajesh Khanna and Nanda in a still from Ittefaq.

How well do films age? In this series, we will be taking superhits, blockbusters and cult classics and putting them through a trial by millennial. Could a 90s action drama or a 60s musical still feel fresh to a Netflix-binging, avocado eating, Starbucks sipping 20-something?

The trailer of Sonakshi Sinha and Sidharth Malhotra’s Ittefaq was useful in one aspect: it got me interested in the source material. Yash Chopra’s 1969 original by the same name is often credited as one of his best films before the director decided romance was his metier, making it one of the better murder mysteries in Hindi cinema.

Not relying on hearsay anymore, I decided it was time to pop in the DVD (or search it on YouTube) myself and I was proven partially right in my assumptions. It is indeed a film to watch and to revisit but not for the obvious reasons. However, the story of the new Ittefaq is different from the Rajesh Khanna-starrer, according to the makers, as is the big twist at the end of the film.

Ittefaq tells the story of a painter, played by Rajesh Khanna, who has been accused of murdering his wife. While he refutes all accusations, he also exhibits signs of mental illness. Doctors, public prosecutors and the police think he is pretending to be mad just to avoid the noose. Seeing no hope at getting justice, he runs away from the mental asylum. He finds shelter in a pristine house in the suburbs of Mumbai and takes the housewife, played by Nanda, hostage.

He spends the night in the house, threatens to kill her if she screams, borrows her husband’s clothes, shares drinks with her, she helps him make his bed then tells him how she believes he is not a bad person. The conflict between the two, which is fuelled by fear and hate, changes to one of understanding and empathy and then to betrayal and lies. The shifts in the lead characters’ temperaments and the struggle to understand which one is real, makes Ittefaq a better, more intelligent film than I expected.

The story is a classic whodunit, made even more intriguing by being set up in a tiny, closed space. It’s a game of Cluedo for you to play along. The clues often stare you in your face and the foreboding is obvious enough to let you solve the case halfway through the movie. The characters are so few, you arrive at the right conclusions merely by employing the method of elimination.

For a murder mystery to not be mysterious after the first half would usually make for a disappointing watch. What do you do when you realise the narrator is the murderer or the taxi driver was behind it all, halfway through the book? You put the book away. But with Ittefaq, there is a lot more still to explore.

Like Khanna’s performance, the film too, shines in its slower moments. It leaves you impressed not when it screams from witness stands about murdering everyone, but when it lies in the living room, shining torchlight on the chandelier, tired of life but still in awe of it. It’s the little, ‘insignificant’ things that provide a feeling of warmth in the place you would least expect it.

The single-door Godrej refrigerator, Akashvani on a Murphy radio, the same blue night lights as the woman’s sari, the musical cigarette lighters and the unbranded glass bottles for milk, the props were few but enough to make you realise you are in a different world where iPhones, LEDS, Mother Dairy packets don’t exist and no one vapes, not to romanticise smoking.

Perhaps, as a millennial, going back to the 1960’s did turn out to be a learning exercise with Ittefaq. Not just to find out how newer, more complex whodunits have ruined us to a host of older ones, but also to, quite ironically, remind us that a good story shouldn’t really need jarring objects in every scene but only props that serve a purpose.

While the film may not have left a mark in the fields it was expected to, it did offer a sweet little window into life quite different to the one we are leading today. And it is a wholesome experience on its own.

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First Published: Nov 02, 2017 13:09 IST