Ittefaq Review (No Spoilers): A Timely Movie

It’s been a long time since I went to a movie theater and it was so crowded I could hardly find a seat!  That was exciting.  And I don’t think it was just about the quality of this film (although it is very very good), I think it is also a “right time” thing.

(I usually put up a spoiler and no spoiler review within hours of each other.  This time, as a courtesy to the producers, I am delaying the spoiler review until late Sunday/early Monday.  Unless we get too many spoiler comments on this post, in which case I will post it earlier than planned)

It was time for this kind of film.  Not a big ambitious blockbuster, but a small interesting film with good performances and good script and good directing.  And NOT a “western-style” film.  Ugh, I hate that phrase!!!!  Just because you take out the songs and the romance doesn’t make it “western-style”.  And just because you put in a twisted plot and clever dialogue doesn’t make it not-Indian.  It’s from BR Chopra films, made by BR’s grandson, and it is in the BR Chopra style.  BR Chopra, Vijay Anand, even Mahesh Bhatt in some of his films.  Heck, the movie itself name checks Gupt.  Some of them have songs, some of them have romance, but they are all films that use a simple mystery to explore society.  That is the tradition this film is from, not the “thriller” tradition of western films, but the mystery-which-is-social-drama Indian tradition.

The original Ittefaq, as I said in my review, is exploring social assumptions.  Do we trust the respectable married woman?  The forces of the state?  Or the radical passionate young artist?

Image result for ittefaq 1969

But that was Indian in 1969.  India in 2017 is different.  Now, the forces are class, NRI versus local, and still (always and forever) man versus woman.  That is what this film is about, not “who did it”, but how people are blinded to “who did it”, only see what they want to see.  Whether it is the witnesses who convinced themselves they would be interviewed on TV camera not by the police.  Or Mandira Bedi (so happy to see her again!) declaring that Siddharth is too handsome to be guilty.  Or the audience, coming up with our own theories as the film goes on, trying to make what we see onscreen match what we think is the answer.

What we see onscreen is really remarkable.  It lives up to the heritage Yash Chopra gave in the original.  It’s not showy, it’s not splashy, but it is quietly excellent.  There are a few moments that stood out for me.  A little thing, Akshaye entering a room while looking at his phone, and the blue light of the phone gently reflecting up on his white shirt.  The rain starting over the skyline of Bombay, and then drops suddenly appearing on the camera screen.  And, like the original, the use of space is phenomenal.  The apartment, where we see the 3 rooms over and over.  The stairs, up and down and up and down.  And the police station, the holding room, the cell, the office, and the stairs again, up and down and up again.  And the doorway, the place of transition, where new ideas suddenly occur and decisions are taken.

This is the other way the film is timely.  It is timely because it is time for Abhay Chopra to make this movie.  With his name and his connections, he could have made his first movie ten years ago.  It could have been a huge thing, produced by Yash Raj (run by his cousins), starring Ranbir Kapoor (his best friend since kindergarten), and everything with a massive budget (BR Chopra films ten years ago was riding high on Baabul and Baghban money).  But instead, Abhay waited.  He worked as an AD for a variety of other directors, he made his own short films, he took his time.  It could have been because he didn’t have the talent or vision to risk anything at a young age, that he was jockeyed into making this film by other more dominant personalities.  But this film is not just well-made, it is intelligently made, there is a clear mental power behind it, an intelligent force creating it.  Abhay proved himself and more.  He certainly could have made a good movie even earlier.  But instead he waited until he could make a great movie.

 

A great practical movie.  It’s a rich world of characters, and wonderful actors embody them.  Akshaye Khanna in particular is predictably the best part of the film.  Siddharth Malhotra is surprisingly good.  Sonakshi is acceptable.  But beyond those 3, the rest of the cast is similarly brilliant.  But they are not famous actors.  Not expensive actors who drive up the budget and make the schedule that much more complex with the only advantage being a tiny bump in publicity.  It’s a world with wonderful sets perfectly used.  But only a few sets.  The whole movie is just plain clever that way.  It never feels cheap, and yet it is.  It was built to be cheap, to be practical, to be cautious.

And now is the time for that.  After a depressing several months at the box office, it is time for a small clever film that will make back it’s budget and then some, get people talking, get people remembering what it was like to come to a movie and enjoy themselves.  And it is time for BR Chopra Films to come back.  Movies about class and society and men and women and a lot more than silly slogans and superficial romances.  Movies that make you think, not just feel.

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27 thoughts on “Ittefaq Review (No Spoilers): A Timely Movie

  1. I was going to make this comment in your news post, but since you’ve already got your no spoiler review up, let me say this here. Instead of making contingency plans on what to do if people reveal spoilers in the comments, why not up a firm directive: NO SPOILERS IN COMMENTS?

    Even better, can you make the comments for this one post be moderated, so you will have to see and approve the comments before they appear on the blog? If that is not possible, since you say you are notified of all comments immediately, can you check them immediately for spoilers? I think the first alternative is better, since you have to sleep, and the greater risk of spoilers is from people in India. So just make it so no comments can get through till you see them. Of course I realize you’re probably already asleep, but maybe you’ll see this first thing in the morning.

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    • Unfortunately, I can’t moderate just one post. I did consider it for this one. Certainly if a super spoiler comment pops up, I can disallow it, but like you said, I do have to sleep sometime.

      I am less worried about purposeful spoilers, and more about accidental. I know some people have already seen it and will want to say things about it and may, unintentionally, let something slip. and if that happens with a few people, I will take it as a sign that it’s better to have a place for us all to talk. But so far so good! I’ll write the review today while it’s fresh in my mind and schedule it for midnight Sunday and see what happens.

      On Sat, Nov 4, 2017 at 2:39 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. Thank you so much, Margaret, for that quick review. I was looking forward to it this morning because I could trust that you would reveal nothing and yet tell about the qualities of the movie.
    I guess it will take some weeks until the movie will be available with english subtitles, but at least I have your positive impression.

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    • Margaret, just a small demand: Could you please watch Anupama’s video-review if indeed she spoiles the viewer. In my German forum where I put a warning one tells me that she doesn’t…

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      • I just watched the opening. She is talking about the original film, not this one, but it is not clear that she is doing that in how she says it. And that still means she is spoiling the original film, and this one was clearly designed to be enjoyed both by people who had seen it and who had chosen not to see it. So she is taking away that choice.

        On Sat, Nov 4, 2017 at 3:32 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Anupama’s Film Companion channel replied to my comment on their video review overnight saying that they meant to spoil the original, not the current one.

          Sorry to everyone for my false alarm. But I agree with margaret, that spoiling the original is almost as bad, since the original isn’t familiar to most viewers.

          The channels reply to me wasn’t apologetic, instead it extolled me to “listen carefully” to the video. To which I replied that this is a video, not a newspaper column, so ppl tend to watch just once, so burden is on then to present carefully and clearly and unambiguously, not on me to listen any more carefully than I do to any other video review. And I said look, if over 50% of the comments on the video are complaints about the spoiler, and 50% of the replies are from Film Companion correcting people about the spoiler, that means that they failed to convey their message clearly.

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          • Yes, that I agree with completely! It is worded poorly, she mentions that it is a remake of a familiar story, and then tells the story. She doesn’t say “It is a remake of the 1969 film Ittefaq, the plot of that film is”. Heck, just begin the review differently! Get into the remake part later when it will be more clear what is happening.

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  3. Wow, thanks for this review! I loved the original, and will definitely watch this one. Being completely fed up with overblown big budget candyfloss I now feel I have something to look forward to now – although I personally expect a bit more from Sonakshi.

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    • Yeah, I am debating as to whether her performance was like that on purpose or not. The last thing I saw her in was Noor and she was really really bad in that. But everyone was bad, and the directing and dialogue was terrible. Before that though, she was good in Akira and everything else I’ve seen. So maybe it was on purpose, they wanted that kind off-putting over/under playing it so we couldn’t be sure about her character.

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  4. So I started to watch the original Ittefaq, and my question to you, after watching the first 10 minutes, is, is this a Rashomon takeoff, or ….? (the alternative I’d better ask in the spoiler review. 🙂 )

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      • I only meant “the Rashomon effect”, where everyone has their own version of the truth, and the viewer has to figure out which version to trust, or perhaps a combination of all the versions.

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        • Ah. The sequel is like that, as you can see from the trailers. But the original isn’t at all.

          And even the sequel is a combination of alternation versions, and straight flashbacks.

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          • Thanks. One of my friends said it is so different that it shouldn’t be called a remake at all. He also didn;t loke it much.

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          • It is the same basic plot, but they tell the story in flashback mostly instead of straight through, and shuffle the characters slightly, which does give it a totally new feel. On the other hand, the keep the idea of the hostage situation and using the space of the apartment in different interesting ways. It’s definitely related, enough that if they hadn’t said it was related, they would have gotten dinged by people for not acknowledging the debt.

            On Sun, Nov 5, 2017 at 11:55 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. Akshay Khanna was sooo good. I knew it from the trailers that they would use SidMal to be the face of the movie but all the heavy lifting acting wise would be done by Akshay. SidMal was ok, he was no great shakes but didn’t bring down the movie either. It helps that he’s this good looking. Sonakshi was a HUGE disappointment, she doesn’t bring anything new or unique to her role, just seems to go through the motions. Also, her styling was such a distraction. No idea why she was dressed like that in her night gown. It’s like they wanted to give off seductress vibes. The inspector was a hoot, soo natural. I think Mukesh Chabra is the best casting director in town. I also loved the cheeky reference to Gupt 🙂
    Btw any idea why the move has 4 producers? Doesn’t look like it was such an expensive movie to shoot.

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    • for the producers, there’s two versions. First version is what they said at the release, Abhay Chopra came to shahrukh with the script for him to act in, he loved it but knew it shouldn’t be a “Shahrukh Khan” movie, needed to be smaller than that, he brought in Karan and Dharma to help with the promotions and so on. So, red Chillies found the property, BR Chopra films developed it to begin with, and Dharma helped witht he release.

      From the other side of things, BR Chopra films/Abhay Chopra are Yash Chopra’s family. Abhay’s Dad Ravi died suddenly a few years back, leaving the family and the studio in really bad shape, they were about to lose their house until Adi stepped in last minute and loaned the money to save the company. So I am guessing this is also a bit of a “we’ll help the kid out and get him on his feet” thing going on, seeing as Adi’s two best friends are the ones co-producing.

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      • Thanks for the response, that makes sense. Great debut by Abhay Chopra! I also loved how they didn’t even go into a detailed credits sequence, it’s like “Lets cut to the chase”. What did you think of the performances? Will you be covering it in more detail in your spoilers review?

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        • Lot more detail. Although I forgot to mention the credits sequence. There were so many clever style moments, it was honestly hard to remember them all! Which is a great problem to have.

          Not sure how much film history you’ve bothered with, but Abhay has one of the best director pedigrees in the business. BR Chopra made so many classics I can’t even remember them all, amazing films like they don’t make any more, small stories and social issues and brilliant natural acting and all of that. And then his son Ravi (the one who died recently) made The Burning Train and the original Mahabharata TV show (what I think of as the “real” one) and Baghban and Baabul. And of course his great uncle was Yash Chopra, and his cousin is Aditya. There’s a lot of talent there, it was smart to start with this small low pressure film because he has a whole lot riding on him.

          Abhay’s best friend since forever (like, since first day of kindergarten) is Ranbir Kapoor. And I can’t help comparing this with Jagga Jasoos. Abhay made a small smart film with a lot of mentoring and support and it’s a great debut with room to grow. Ranbir went off on his own with way too much money and ideas and it turned out terribly (besides the film quality, the poor financial loss is terrible).

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          • I knew he was BR Chopra’s grandson but had no idea he was Ranbir Kapoor’s friend. Good thing he debuted with Dharma, they really are great mentors.

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  6. I haven’t seen it and I don’t think I’ll get a chance to see it in theaters. So would you say that this is Sidharth’s career best performance?

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    • I still haven’t seen Hasee To Phasee 🙂

      But definitely better than everything else I have seen him in so far. Although it is also leaning into his strengths, handsome charming innocent type guy.

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      • I didn’t like Hasee Toh Phasee much. It felt like it was trying too hard to be a quirky rom-com. Plus I thought Sidharth’s character was all over the place. Parineeti was the only good part of that film.

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  7. Pingback: Ittefaq Review (SPOILERS DO NOT READ IT YOU HAVE NOT SEEN): The Blindness of Prejudice | dontcallitbollywood

  8. Seeing ITFQ tonight, $6USD Tuesdays at the local plush reclining chairs reserved seating theater. Only first row was available… That’s a good sign! Can’t wait to read your spoiler post afterwards 🙂

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