Friday Classics: Ittefaq! The Original Before the Remake Comes Out

Happy Ittefaq day!  Seeing it tonight, the new one that is, and reviewing/spoiling the old one this morning.  I’m spoiling on purpose, I suspect the remake will be in conversation as it were with people’s expectations from the original, so if you know the original plot, it might make you more curious to see the remake.

Whole Plot:

Rajesh Khanna arrives home to find his wife dead.  His sister-in-law Bindu immediately accuses him of the death, he is arrested and put on trial, eventually sentenced to an insane asylum, the assumption being that he killed his wife in a moment of crazed rage and is only denying it because he does not remember it.  Rajesh escapes from the asylum and goes on the run on a stormy night, breaking into the house of Nanda, a young wife whose husband is away on business.  He holds her hostage with a gun he has stolen, she gives him clothes from her husband’s closet and does not reveal his presence to her neighbor who comes to borrow milk, or even when the police come to check on her.  They come to trust each other, especially when she offers him a drink and they talk about their sad lives, she admits that she feels “distant” from her husband, and they have a moment.  And then he falls asleep.  The police (obviously Iftekhar is the police inspector) and the asylum doctor come to check on her again, Rajesh hides in the bedroom and finds a dead body in the bathtub who he recognizes from photos and Nanda’s husband.  He screams, the police constable comes back, after he leaves Rajesh accuses Nanda of murdering her husband and planning to blame it on him, but Nanda shows him there is no body in the bathroom now and tells him he must be the crazy man the police think, imagining these things.

Meanwhile, Iftekhar is re-investigating the original crime, talks to Bindu again, begins to question everything.  He finally lands up at Nanda’s house when her husband is found dead, with a torn scrap of clothe from Rajesh’s asylum cloths clutched in his hands.  Nanda protests that Rajesh must have killed her husband on the street and then, coincidentally, landed up at her house.  After all, why would she kill her husband?  And why should they believe Rajesh over her, a respectable woman?  In an epic final scene, everything slowly comes undone based on little clues like the fact that the clothe was placed in the husband’s hand after death, and a lighter that Rajesh recognized as having been in the house before.  The big twist is not that Nanda is a killer (the thing everyone remembers and talks about), it is that her accomplice was the constable!!!!  That’s how she was able to move the body and fake the evidence against Rajesh, even though she never left the house and no one entered except the police and her neighbor.  Nanda and the constable killed her husband earlier that night, and when Rajesh entered the house, she realized this was an opportunity and kept him there while the constable boyfriend worked to frame him.  The constable moved the body, put the fabric in its hand from Rajesh’s clothes that Nanda took away, and now is in the house investigating the “crime” along with everyone else.  Rajesh finally figures this all out, and is proved correct when the constable takes him hostage.  Iftakhar meanwhile has been puzzling out his own mystery while chasing down Rajesh, and has realized that he was innocent of the original murder, that was done by Bindu (his sister-in-law) who inherited her wealthy sister’s money once she was dead and her husband thrown in jail.

 

So, that’s a lot!  The bigger theme of the film is that the “innocents” are guilty and the guilty are innocent.  Rajesh, the unpleasant angry passionate artist, did not actually kill anyone.  Nanda, the sweet lonely young wife, is hiding a murder.  The police constable, seemingly the most trustworthy, is the other murderer.  And even Bindu, the grieving sister angry at her brother-in-law, is guilty.

(Bindu!!!!)

Rajesh is an artist, which is only briefly mentioned at the beginning when we see a flashback to his last fight with his wife in which he does not want to go to a party with her because he is caught up in his painting.  But in a larger thematic sense, the entire film is about perception, perspective, seeing clearly.  And Rajesh, our painter, is the only one who can do that.

In the new film, Siddharth will be playing a writer.  I will be curious how that theme threads through the film, if it will be more about stories than about perspective.  That’s one thing that is fascinating about this original film.  There is only one story.  The audience sees everything.  But we do not fully understand it.

In the middle of the film, after they have drunk together and talked about their lives, the camera slowly zooms in as Rajesh topples over exhausted so we can see that his gun is sticking out of his back pocket.  And then nothing happens.  I thought it was a mistake at first, this shot that seemed to be foreshadowing a thing that didn’t happen.  But it was like Holmes’ dog in the nighttime, the point was that it DIDN’T happen.  Nanda could have taken the gun and left.  She could have left without even taking the fun, Rajesh was so tired he fell over without thought of his weapon.  But she didn’t.  That is the moment we should have gotten suspicious.

There were other moments as well.  When the police first come, Rajesh is hiding in another room, there is no real reason Nanda shouldn’t tell them he is there, or just leave with them.  And yet, she doesn’t.  We even had an earlier scene to show us a different situation, when the neighbor came over Rajesh was hidden in the same room with the gun trained on both women the entire time.  In that case, Nanda was clearly terrified and anxious for her own safety and the safety of the woman with her.  But then in later moments, she seems progressively less scared, and Rajesh gives her more and more freedom.

(Like Highway, but totally different)

Since this is a Hindi film, we could assume it is because they are building a bond, perhaps even falling in love.  Rajesh (we assume) is innocent, Nanda is a lovely sympathetic young woman in an unhappy marriage, they are both young and attractive, perhaps that is all it is.  But we would be wrong!  The film is playing with our expectations, making us blind to reality.

Later, when Rajesh finds the body, there is a new trick being pulled.  Like Rajesh, we start to doubt his sanity.  Perhaps Nanda and the audience were both tricked, he isn’t the troubled artist type, he is truly insane.  That would be how these things go, the beautiful young woman is innocent and tricked by the seemingly nice young man.

But no, this isn’t the case either.  As the film goes on, without explicitly stating it, it turns into a situation where the audience must choose either Nanda or Rajesh to sympathize with, and it is hard to know who deserves our sympathy more.  Rajesh is the young handsome hero, the one we have been following this whole time.  But Nanda is the sweet defenseless woman, shouldn’t we fear for her more than for the strong young man?  Isn’t she in more danger?

Part of the brilliance of this puzzle is the staging.  We move in and out and around Nanda’s house many times.  The comfortable living room with the sofa that is turned into a bed for Rajesh.  The bedroom that hides clothes for Rajesh, and secrets for Nanda.  The kitchen, where Rajesh holds Nanda’s neighbor as an unwitting hostage.  And of course the door and windows, the openings to the storm outside and the other characters who come in and out.  The audience is shown everything, and it is up to us to put it together.  Whether seeing how the body could have been taken while Rajesh was not looking, or seeing that there is a constable in the room at the top of the stairs, able to come up behind and take the murderer by surprise in the finale.

Related image

(Stairway!  The true star)

Like Hum Aapke Hain Koun, the stairs are the real stars of this film.  I wonder if that was something in the original staging, or something Yashji added for his film version?  Because they work brilliantly.  Characters are always running up and down them, trapped between banisters, on a higher or lower plane than someone else.  A simple staging with one room and two doors off it (kitchen and bedroom) wouldn’t be effective at all, but somehow adding the stairs brings it to a new level (no pun intended).  When Rajesh is hiding upstairs, he is really hiding, gone completely from Nanda’s world.  And while the police my move in and out of the downstairs room constantly, they never breach the privacy of the second story.

And then there’s the ending scene.  In which all our sympathy is with Nanda.  Even while learning she is a murderer, Rajesh is passionate and fierce and bearded and scary, while Nanda is sweet and sari-clad.  It could have been played with Rajesh as the logical sad detective type.  But instead he is still being angry, scary, off-putting.  We are not supposed to believe his version because he is charming us into it, but because we can’t resist his logic.  The police officer clothed in the respectability of the State, the soft fragile appearing woman, we don’t want to distrust them, but we must.

And the theme is echoed with the solution to Rajesh’s murder case.  We want to distrust the angry passionate artist, who we saw argue with his wife.  We want to trust the loving grieving sister.  But the evidence is against her, her lies are found out, and we have to acknowledge them as well.

Ittefaq means “coincidence”, roughly.  And the challenge of the film isn’t accepting what is coincidence (an accused murderer landing up at the house of a woman who just killed her husband), but what isn’t (the policeman having a lighter that Rajesh had previously seen in the house).  Our mind searches for patterns, always, but we have to find the right pattern, the one where everything fits, not just the one that we want to fit.

And this is why there are no songs.  No songs, few scenes outside of the one set, not even costume changes.  No distraction.  We must see this story as purely as possible, our only judgements based on logic and the mild social conditioning inherent within ourselves.

Image result for ittefaq 1969

(the unshaven man in black, versus the fragile woman with the mangalsutra)

There are plenty of horror movies about changing out perspective, the danger outside the house turning into danger inside.  Pizza, for one.  But this movie is a little more than that.  It’s not just about “the real danger was the woman inside, not the man breaking in!” idea.  It’s about the idea of putting two social opposites in a closed environment and asking which one we will side with, will we see the situation clearly or through our prejudices?  Helping us to understand what our prejudices are, what is really a coincidence and what is an illusion.

That’s what gives me hope for this remake.  Because they are taking the central idea and expanding on it.  We are no longer dealing with the implication of expectations and being asked who we believe, we are now being actual shown the two alternate versions and asked to pick one.

Plus, the possibilities for slight changes are so rich!  In the original, for instance, there were 3 cop characters and a doctor.  Iftekhar was the honest cop who saw the truth and investigated.  He had a similarly honest assistant, and then there was the constable who turned out to be the murderer.  The doctor, meanwhile, was there to provide explanations and discussion of Rajesh’s backstory.

In this one, based on the trailer, we have Akshaye as the police with maybe one assistant.  So will he be the honest investigator?  The murderer in a twist?  The doctor-like one just there to provide explanations while events play out?

Will Sonakshi again be a faithless wife and murderer?  Or will there be something else going on?

Most tantalizing, is it possible Siddharth will be guilty of his first crime but innocent of the second?  Will that be the coincidence?

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20 thoughts on “Friday Classics: Ittefaq! The Original Before the Remake Comes Out

  1. For some time I was wondering why Siddharth was given a role in th new Ittefaq but now after seeing the original and after you wrote that maybe they want to play with his image of pretty boy, I start to convice myself that maybe it was a good idea.
    Because when Rajesh broke into Nanda’s house she acted strange. There was an armed crazy man in her house and she didn’t even look so scared. First I thought it’s actress fault, that she wasn’t good enough to convey the emotions. I was so focused on her acting that I didn’t think maybe she is hidding something. Only when the body was found I realized my mistake.
    So maybe there will be something similiar with Siddhart? He will not be acting well, but then we will discover it was all on purpose.
    BTW Nanda looks gorgeous in this green saree.

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    • Nanda does look gorgeous! If she has to wear the same outfit for an entire movie, it’s a pretty good outfit!

      On Fri, Nov 3, 2017 at 6:50 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. Can you review Thazhvaram for the next Monday movie review? It is available on hotstar…and is probably the only western style film from India

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  3. I found it a really interesting movie because it wasn’t something specific Indian but like a theatre play of western style turned into a movie by an Indian filmmaker.
    I like what you wrote about Rajesh being a painter and how it affects the vision displayed in the movie. I am equally curious how it will influence the movie now that Sid’s character is a writer. He could easily script two different stories to tell – one for him, one for Sonakshi – to confuse the police.
    I am happy for you that you can watch the movie today 🙂

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    • It could also be that Sid can see through Sonakshi’s version because of his writerly super powers, being able to find the flaw in her story. But I really like your idea, that Sid and Sonakshi are working together!!!

      On Fri, Nov 3, 2017 at 8:32 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. I also like the feeling that the inspector has a bigger role, because of the interrogation scenes. However, I am terribly annoyed that it is only in four theaters in the DC area so far, three of them in far-off northern Virginia.

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    • Same here, it’s playing at the 3 far out suburb theaters that always play everything, but none of the more convenient theaters that usually play bigger releases. I suspect a combination of Thor coming out and taking up screens, and a smaller release in general. Thank goodness! Baar Baar Dekho was a nightmare, should NOT have released on that many screens, glad that Dharma/Siddharth are learning from their mistakes. But it is irritating, I’m going to get home sooooooooooo late tonight because the only showtime is late, and the only theater is far away.

      On Fri, Nov 3, 2017 at 9:55 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. Anupama chopra just spoiled the movie with her review, which tens of thousands will see, revealing the murderer. I find this completely unethical, given that the trailer sets this up as the problem to solve. She’s reverting to the “this is a remake” defense, and completely losing touch with her responsibilities to her audience, as well as the size of her audience.

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    • Thank you for mentioning this, because I have been struggling with this as well. Normally I put up a no spoilers review (for people who haven’t seen the movie yet) and a SPOILERS review (for people who have seen the movie and want to discuss it, or who won’t be able to watch it for months and months). In this case, both of my SPOILER reasons are especially true. I suspect the film will be fascinating to discuss with the ending in mind. And I’ve already heard that it is getting a smaller release in the US, so there are people who will want to know what happened and legitimately cannot see it in theaters.

      And yet, I also want to be respectful to the filmmakers and not reveal the ending if they do not want it revealed.

      But then on the other hand, part of the reason I have the two reviews is to quarantine comments as well, if there is going to be a comment that reveals a spoiler, I want it to be over on the Spoiler review. If I only put up one review, I am sure there will be something in a comment that somehow reveals the ending.

      What do you think?

      On Fri, Nov 3, 2017 at 10:47 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I absolutely agree with the way you do things. You clearly put SPOILER and NO SPOILER in the post title, so I can make an informed choice. Plus your readership is respectful of that convention in the comments. Keep doing you!

        Note that in this review you haven’t put the word SPOILER in the title, but it is implied by the fact that you are reviewing the original and say as much in the title. (I persnally think one should put SPOILER in the title even when reviewing old movies, because there are always new viewers, but I understand why that convention is not followed).

        As for video vs blog, I don’t draw a distinction – had Anupama simply put the word SPOILER in the video title, that would solve the problem.

        I do draw a distinction on size of viewership and on intent and branding. E.g. If you run a blog called “Bollywood Spoilers!!”, then I don’t fault you for posting spoilers, nor for not labeling them as such. Or if you are Casey Niestat – a youtube vlogger with multimillion subscribers – and you posted a video spoiling the ending of, say, The Sixth Sense, on the day of its release, esp without SPOILER in the title, that’s just unconscionable.

        Instead 11,000 viewers (as of this writing) just got spoiled in the first 10 sounds of anupama’s video before they even knew what hit them. Then she immediately defends it by saying there is already a movie, a book, and an American movie that this originates from. But she’s acting like this is a remake of Romeo & Juliet, or even DDLJ or Top Gun. Instead, the fact that the predecessors are not as part of the cultural collective consciousness matters, but she’s not drawing that distinction.

        Further, the trailer matters. It tells me what viewing experience, and what anticipatory experience, the director/producer wants me to have. Ittefaq’s trailer tells me two things. First, that movie team thinks most ppl haven’t heard of the original, or haven’t seen it, or aren’t going to bother seeing it beforehand. Second, we are being set up for a whodoneit thiller with a rashamon style narrative. So for example, if instead the movie is actually all about the police team and the crime is just a plot device that is solved in the first 20 minutes of the movie, we can all complain later that the trailer was totally misleading. But that’s part of the movie viewing experience too – seeing the trailer, feeling anticipation, then having that anticipation meet or exceeded, or feeling let down, duped, misled, or what have you.

        Instead, Anupama is taking a ‘sucks to be you’ approach to anyone who hasn’t or won’t see the original, and she’s completely inserting herself between the trailer and the movie, thus entirely destroying that continuum, esp given the size of her viewership. All of which could be avoided by putting SPOLER in the title, if not also warning of spoilers in her verbal delivery before revealing the murderer.

        As VVC’s spouse, she always has an inherent conflict of interest in reviewing *any* film. Is this a veiled attempt at decreasing (or increasing) footfalls for a competitor’s comeback? Cue the conspiracy theorists! 😉

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        • You have put your finger on it exactly with the trailer. They are selling us the experience of trying to solve the mystery ourselves before it is revealed. If it was solved in the first five minutes despite what the trailer says, that would be different. Or if the trailer already gives us the whole film, that would be different.

          For instance, with Spyder, we learned in the first five minutes how Mahesh’s superhero thing worked, despite the trailers being a little unclear on it. So talking about that wasn’t a spoiler, so long as the rest of the film remained mysterious. Or with Jab Harry Met Sejal, they sold it all along as a “romance” with a “happy ending”, and that Shahrukh was a tour guide and Anushka was his client and she was looking for an engagement ring. And that was literally the entire plot of the movie. What made the movie special was the way the plot was presented, the tiny details. So there was nothing really to spoil, unless you talked about the entire film.

          But with this, the trailers are telling what they want the movie experience to be like, and unless it is a total lie, there is no reason for a reviewer to ruin the ending.

          I think the distinction I was drawing with video versus written is what I did in this review. I didn’t flag the title (on purpose, I didn’t want people to come her thinking it was a spoiler for the new one and get disappointed, I am going to update it once the new review is up), but I do say “I am about to tell you the whole plot”. And I tell it in order, so you have to go through 600 words before you get to the end. Which is different than a video, to me, unless you actually say in the video “I am about to spoil the film” and then pause for 20 seconds giving people time to click away. It’s so easy for a video to just keep playing, versus looking away from a written review.

          On Fri, Nov 3, 2017 at 1:50 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • You are right is terrible and so unethical especially when the ending is the main force the movie and the promotions were based on “say no to spoilers”.
      Anupama lost a part of her credibility for me when she reviewed JHMS and said it was not good film because she doesn’t believe SRK and Anushka could sleep together without having sex. It was stupid but what she has done now to Ittefaq is a low-blow.

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      • I agree. Especially in a video review. At least with a written review, you can put in a SPOILER bar or something, but with a video, it just plays straight through.

        Any thoughts on what I should do?

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      • That is mean…she knows exactly what she is doing. Thanks a lot for the warning!

        Margaret, please keep your system. It is a clear seperation so your readers can make a choice and the commenters know exactly where they can place their comments.
        I really appreciate your consideration to seperate between spoiler-free and I tell everything.

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        • Oh good! That’s why I do it, not so people can quickly find the end of a film, but so I can have the kind of discussions you can only have when you talk about the film as a whole, start to finish, instead of just giving a taste.

          I’ll plan on that then, and if I get a bunch of strangers popping over just because they are curious, well, I tried to warn them away.

          On Fri, Nov 3, 2017 at 11:32 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  6. Pingback: Ittefaq Review (No Spoilers): A Timely Movie | dontcallitbollywood

  7. Pingback: Film Reviews | dontcallitbollywood

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