Ittefaq Review (SPOILERS DO NOT READ IT YOU HAVE NOT SEEN): The Blindness of Prejudice

I really hope everyone who wants to has had a chance to see this film now.  I put off posting until Monday morning India time/after the last evening show has started America time so that you could.  If you have not seen it yet not, here is my regular no spoilers review, read that instead.  And if you haven’t but are going to be able to later, DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW. Or if you aren’t sure if you will enjoy it, YOU WILL ENJOY IT, DO NOT READ THIS AND GO SEE IT INSTEAD!!!!  But if you have already seen the film, or live somewhere where you won’t be able to watch it for months and months and want to know what happens, then you can read on.

Whole plot in three paragraphs:

We open with a car chase and a crash.  Siddharth stumbles out of his car and runs away, ducking into an apartment complex.  Then we move to watching the police, they are trying to set up a police cordon, and then start searching each nearby building.  While they are talking to a guard, a woman suddenly runs down and stops their car, then directs them up to her apartment where they find Siddharth standing over a body.  Siddharth is arrested and detective Akshaye Khanna is called in.  Akshaye talks Siddharth, and then to Sonakshi, and to the old man who has already filed a case against Akshaye for causing the suicide of his daughter, and various other witnesses.  He puts together a story of it all.  Siddharth is a writer, his first hit book was based on the true story of a rape victim.  His next book failed, but this third one is selling well partly because of buzz around the release of the name of the rape victim the first book was based on.  After her name was released, she killed herself.  Siddharth says it was his wife, the white British publisher, who leaked the name to help him.  They were seen arguing because he was angry with her for doing it.  He came back to their hotel room to find her in the bathroom, dead, with a head wound.  He called the police, who seemed to suspect him, he panicked and ran away, stumbling away from his car crash to Sonakshi’s apartment.  She listened to his story and offered to help, said that her husband was a lawyer, if he just stayed a little longer her husband would be home and could help.  Siddharth believes that her husband was already dead and he was being set up all along.  Sonakshi’s version is that he burst in and held her hostage, forced her to have a drink with him, to send away the maid.  And when her husband finally came home, he fought with him, she ran out the door and grabbed the police, and when they came back, her husband was already dead.

Akshaye investigates further and finds more data, including photos from a private investigator of Sonakshi and another man.  Sonakshi was having an affair with her husband’s colleague and friend.  Siddharth explains that he showed up later, Sonakshi pretended he was her husband, but Siddharth realized the truth, the man attacked him and knocked him out, he woke up to find a dead body next to him and the police coming in.  Sonakshi says she was having an affair, her husband caught them earlier that evening, they fought, he left.  Her boyfriend came back later that night but did not come in, she warned him away with Siddharth holding her at knife point.  The affair is unrelated to the murder of her husband.  But Akshaye finally finds the evidence that proves her guilt and the guilt of her boyfriend, clean shoes on her husband’s body meaning he did not leave the house alive after the rain started.  Siddharth is exonerated of his wife’s death as well, she died from her heart condition, hitting her head as she fell.  Siddharth and Akshaye have a heart to heart about his feelings of guilt, the body is released to him and he cremates her, then prepares to leave the country.

At which point Akshaye stumbles on the final evidence, the heart pills were doctored, Siddharth had killed his wife.  He tries to stop Siddharth on the way out of the country, Siddharth calls him and explains, now that it is too late to stop him.  He had leaked the name of the rape victim, his wife found out and was horrified and ready to go to the police.  He started poisoning her then, waiting for her to die.  But while he was talking to the police, her phone that he had stolen got a message, he saw it was from a lawyer she was working with who had all the proofs and would make sure he was punished.  He ran, planning to get to Sonakshi’s house all along to kill her husband, the lawyer.  He held her hostage not by coincidence, but so he could look through the papers in her husband’s office for the proof.  And to wait for her husband to get home.  Once her husband was home, he killed him, switched shoes, and made sure the police would find the photos from the private investigator of the affair, photos he found while searching the death.  And then he played on Akshaye’s sympathy to make sure his wife got a quick cremation before the lab reports were final.  And now he is strolling away, back to London, where they will not let him be extradited without a massive push and much more evidence.

 

Image result for ittefaq poster

It’s a brilliant brilliant movie.  Not because of the twists (although they are wonderful as well), but because of what it reveals about society.  Let’s take, for instance, Sonakshi.  She is a faithless wife.  A beautiful rich woman who does nothing useful.  We hate her, naturally.  She is even played in a way to make us hate her.  I don’t know if they purposefully cast an actress who tends to be a bit false, or if she was directed to be that way, but either way it works!  Sonakshi keeps seeming slightly “off” somehow.  Too perfect in her protestations of innocence, too delicate with her little griefs.

The styling helps as well.  Her make-up and her hair is slightly too much, overly fake, hair that is never that straight, make-up that is too dark and false.  It’s unpleasant to see, the mind shies away from this much falsehood.  Her clothes too, loose and casual, but also thin and sexy, hard to get a handle on them, hard to understand the message she wants to send.  We naturally dislike and distrust her.

And we are never really supposed to “like” her.  She is never redeemed by the film, there is never a moment when she suddenly appears more real, her make-up is wiped off, anything like that.  Yes, she had an affair.  Yes, she is an unpleasant selfish person.  But that doesn’t mean she is guilty of anything.  And it doesn’t mean she “deserved” what happened to her.  It doesn’t even mean that her grief is fake, that she didn’t truly love her husband.

The film gives us the same challenge over and over again.  Especially with men versus women.  We don’t like Sonakshi, because she is faithless and false.  And we don’t like Siddharth’s wife because she is white, she is rich, and she is foreign.  But does that mean we should not believe them?

When the trailer came out, I rolled my eyes quite a bit at that glimpse of Siddharth’s dead white wife.  Yet another disposable white woman, personality-less, thrown in just to make the film look “cool”.  But no!!!  She HAS to be white.  The relationship of an NRI to a white woman is what this whole thing was about.

Akshaye is our audience stand-in, the one who is torn between all these stories as are we.  And he makes an immediate connection with Siddharth because they speak the same language, literally and metaphorically.  Siddharth may have been raised abroad, but he speaks good Hindi.  Well, “Hinglish”.  When the police first come for him, the constables use Hindi slang and make fun of his English, joke that he will be speaking Marathi by the time they are through with him.  But Akshaye is different, Akshaye reads English language books and moves between English and Hindi as easily as Siddharth.  They are the same class, the same intelligence.  And the same gender.

When Akshaye looks at Sonakshi, he sees her as “false” because her reactions and emotions are not what he would feel.  He resists seeing her as the simple “grieving widow”, knowing enough to see that her simple grief is false, but he is also not capable of fully understanding and appreciating the layers of what else she is feeling besides grief.  But that does not mean she is lying, it just means she is a woman and he is a man.

We see that over and over, the gap between genders in this way.  Akshaye and his wife Mandira Bedi have a delightful happy healthy marriage, but it involves him appreciating how often her remarks surprise him, and vice versa.  They know they are not the same and enjoy that.  The suicide victim and her father have a similar gap between them.  He cannot help her, cannot fully understand the damage that “sympathy” is doing to her.  And she cannot explain it to him.

Image result for mandira bedi ittefaq

(Also, Mandira Bedi is really good in the film.  And looks great with short hair!  I like to think it is Preeti from DDLJ, who moved to Bombay, cut her hair, and met and married this cool outside the box thinker husband)

That is what throws Siddharth into confusion, when he is not able to predict his own wife.  He is surprised that she sides with the suicide victim.  She places gender loyalty, and loyalty to the right thing, over loyalty to her husband or the chasm between culture and experiences and everything else that separates her and the suicide victim.  This is perhaps the first time he has been surprised by a woman, or by anyone.  We see in a flashback from the perspective of the suicide victim’s father, how he first entered their life.  Sweet, kind, trustworthy, told them he wanted to tell her story in order to help others.  And then once he had it, he did not even seem to know them, walked passed them on the street.  A manipulator.  But he cannot manipulate his own wife.

His wife, who is the owner of the publishing company that is publishing his book.  Presumably another woman he has used in the years past.  And now he cannot use her any more, she has surprised him, he is driven to the wall and forced to try a desperate stratagem.  He is just as desperate with Sonakshi, resorting to pure violence to control her.  Man’s ultimate weapon, physical strength over women.  But once he is arrested and placed with Akshaye, he can recover.  He knows this enemy, he knows how to direct his mind in the way he chooses, to use their shared prejudices to his advantage.

It’s not just gender, it is also class.  Our constable characters are purposefully disgusting.  We first see the police in the person of “Tembe”, the laziest lowest stupidest of them all.  Over the course of the film, he sleeps on duty, he steals food, he jokes with the private detective about being able to watch his own private sex show, he is gross.  We don’t want to think of being like him, we (the audience) want to be like Akshaye.  And Akshaye, in the film, doesn’t want to be like him either, wants to be like Siddharth.  So when Siddharth says he was afraid, because Tembe told him 95% of the time it is the husband who kills the wife and they will question him, Akshaye (and the audience) sympathizes with him.

Image result for akshaye ittefaq

(You also want to be like Akshaye because Akshaye is super cool)

It’s easy to relate to the well-spoken intelligent handsome upperclass man.  Easier than to the false woman, or all the lowerclasses who leap to assuming guilt based on silly things like “it’s always the husband”.  And so he is the one we come to like, just like Akshaye does.

When he cremates his wife, it is a lovely moment of the native returning home.  He may have lived overseas, but we can believe he is now returning to his roots.  He has given up his white wife, chosen the poor Indian woman suicide victim over her.  And now he is cremating her, finding peace in his traditional identity.  It is easy to think that he is good at heart, it was all that foreign travel, white wife, that was what ruined him.

But he is using ALL OF THIS!!!!  Siddharth is gently indicating to Akshaye that he is the only one he can trust, the two of them are “better” than the other police.  That the two of them are honest and straightforward, unlike the scheming women around them.  The two of them are Indians together, with the same sense of values and morality and everything else.  He is tricking Akshaye and the audience is listening in and being tricked as well.

And the film isn’t cheating us.  There are little clues there all along, a head wound that had to be made by a taller man which is never fully explained.  A fresh blister indicating shoes that don’t fit.  That moment of turning away from the suicide victim before her death which isn’t fully explained by his argument of putting it all on his wife.  It is on the audience if we ignored those clues.

Like Akshaye, when we realize the “truth”, it is not just a matter of solving this mystery, it is a matter of confronting our own weaknesses that were taken advantage of.  Our assumption that the wealthy white woman had less conscience than the sincere nice young desi author.  Our assumption that a wife who cheats on her husband could just as easily kill him and seduce and frame someone else to take the blame.  Our assumption that the lower class disgusting police officers must be wrong in their belief that a husband always kills a wife.  We were taken in by the false values of society, placing those values over the truth.  Embracing the fantasy, the “coincidence”, because it was easier.  Even though the evidence was right in front of us.

That is the true point of the film.  To make us look into ourselves and question how often in life we believe the story rather than the truth, because it is convenient, because it is easy, because it makes us feel like we are on the “right” side.

Advertisements

24 thoughts on “Ittefaq Review (SPOILERS DO NOT READ IT YOU HAVE NOT SEEN): The Blindness of Prejudice

  1. OK, I haven’t read the review since I might watch this some time. But I’ll ask the possibly spoilery question I had after watching the first ten minutes of the original Ittefaq — does the Rajesh Khanna character have a split (or nowadays, multiple) personality?

    Like

    • He is always magnificent!!!! I am so happy that he switched to being a character actor instead of just a boring lead actor. Carries the whole movie in a bunch of different ways, giving us someone to root for, someone to entertain us, someone to sort of make this whole crazy world seem sane.

      On Mon, Nov 6, 2017 at 2:54 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

      • I’ve never seen or heard of this guy who played the detective but he was simply amazing!!! I loved the film but I have to admit that I thought the rest of the actors just sucked. I haven’t seen Sonakshi in anything but Lootera & was expecting a lot from her on the basis of her performance I’m it but if this is any indication of her skill progression I’m not going to go out of my way to see her again. Maybe she should stick with SK.

        Siddarth I’ve never seen before (except in the preview to a recent film he was in that was so uninspired that I couldn’t believe it) and likewise I’m not going to go seeking him out. He’s attractive enough in a sort of non-memorable way but his acting was pretty forgettable. What is it with these younger guys? They substitute half-way decent looks for any sort of acting chops.

        The cops are just half-hearted (and half-witted) stereotypes & I couldn’t ever decide whether that was on purpose or just laziness.

        In any case despite all this blah-ness the plot is captivating, the stagecraft is good & the ending isn’t telegraphed the way it is in too many Indian films (by showing something important 3 times)

        I’d recommend it to pretty much anyone-it was gripping & the guy who played Dev was worth the ticket price. But no dancing. How weird was that???

        Like

        • Prepare for me to drop knowledge on you! Akshaye Khanna, the detective, is the son of Vinod Khanna who was a huge huge star in the 70s and 80s. He launched his son Akshaye when he was very young, like just 21 I think. He had a pretty decent career as a young lead hero but he never really fit with the standard boring hero type roles. He started moving more and more into “different” kind of parts, doing some art films, playing the villain or the second lead. And then he took a complete break for a few years and has come back a 100% character actor.

          So he is this very unique thing, a man who is only 42 but had been acting in major films in major roles for 20 years, who has the charisma and experience of a leading man but has chosen to take the more interesting character parts over the lead. Anyway, I just love Akshaye and he is consistently the best part of the films he is in. Recently he did Dishoom (as the villain), and Mom (as another cop) and he was just as spectacular in those films as he was in this one. I can’t wait to see what he does next!

          Like

  2. Wow! So Dev is the son of Kaali’s father in Dilwale!?! The guy you called Sex Cult??? Interesting! You are truly a font of information! Thanks for the education. I liked that guy and I like his son as well. I’m glad they were related. I’m going to check out Akshaye’s other films.

    Like

    • Yep! The family has a very distinctive chin dimple. My favorite Akshaye movie is Hulchul. It’s back when he was still playing the romantic lead, but he brings something different to it. Race is another good one, he is the second lead in that but has a lot of fun with the role. Oh, and in Aaja Nachle, he is Madhuri’s love interest.

      Like

      • “Oh, and in Aaja Nachle, he is Madhuri’s love interest.”

        And in a much earlier film, Akshaye’s father Vinod Khanna is Madhuri’s love interest, and in fact, Madhuri’s first onscreen kiss.

        Like

        • Oh oh!!!! And this gives me the opportunity to, once again, post a link to the MOST DISTURBING SONG OF ALL TIME. As one of my friends described it “he doesn’t have a pornstache, but it feels like he does, you know?”

          On Wed, Nov 8, 2017 at 12:13 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

          >

          Like

          • Taken out of context, just watching the song alone, looks pretty creepy, plus he looks like her dad’s age.

            Like

          • He is 21 years older than her, she was 20 at the time of filming and he was 41, it was one of her first movies. I’ve never seen the whole film, but I know it’s an almost shot for shot remake of the Tamil film Nayakan which I have seen. And the hero ages from 20s to 50s in that movie, probably why they cast Vinod, but they didn’t do a very good job making him look in his 20s in this shot!!!!

            On Wed, Nov 8, 2017 at 3:03 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

            >

            Like

  3. Pingback: Box Office: Ittefaq Hits Big, Not a Coincidence | dontcallitbollywood

  4. Interesting, very thorough analysis. I agree that it is a well made film. But I also think that I saw a different movie than you did. Maybe due to a “blinding of prejudice” brought about by my watching so many modern Western films (1970s onward) and relatively fewer Hindi films.

    The movie I saw was a cat and mouse game btwn Sid and Akshaye, where the goal was to see if Sid would outwit Akshaye or visa versa in the 3 day window. While it was marketed as a whodunit, it turned from whodunit to cat-mouse once Sid was established as the murderer in the middle of the first half, when Sid was revealed to be a psychopath/sociopath, which also means it’s a premeditated murder(s) and not a crime of passion. And the secondary goal was to see what Sonakshi’s role and motive was in this movie, if any.

    When the rape victim’s father tells Akshaye that Sid promised both him & his daughter that he’d keep her ID confidential, then broke the promise and named her in his book, then ignored their calls and ignored them on the street, then showed no emotion to the daughter’s suicide, that was the movie telling the audience that Sid is a psychopath. In modern Western films, when we are told that someone is a psychopath, then we are also being told that he/she is the culprit, and if he/she is not, then that’s the surprise twist. This is different from Hindi film, where a psychopath can be abhorrent yet somewhat tolerated by the film, being a plot device or moral messaging device, without necessarily being the film’s ultimate culprit.

    A note about Sonakshi’s acting – since her role out of the 3 leads is the only enigma (at least according to my take on the movie), it made sense that she under-acted the role, thus making her a blank canvas for us to plant more than 1 possible interpretation onto. She’s a good actress in many films, so perhaps she was instructed to under-act by the director.

    Like

    • See, I still saw a possibility of Sid being innocent. Even after the flashback. Because they were careful with how it played out. He didn’t just use her story, he got her permission to write it into the book. And he did not reveal her name. The name was leaked later, but there was no proof it was done by him. So the only thing that was “off” was him not greeting them on the street, which could have been explained later in some way, just like the name leak was “revealed” to have been done by his wife.

      I was totally taken in on my first watch, watching it as Akshaye’s story as he tried to get to the truth, and trying to guess with him who was lying. But I want to watch it again because I want to see it the way you saw it, as a cat-and-mouse. It is one of those rare movies that works equally well but in a different way before and after you know the twist. First watch is all about “solving” the mystery. Second watch would be all about watching Siddharth and seeing what he is doing. Rewatching it in my head as the days past, it is really fascinating the way they set it up. Akshaye was trying to be the one guy he could trust, the sane smart sympathetic one who believed him. But he didn’t realize that Siddharth was playing him the exact same way!!!! Acting as though he respected Akshaye more, playing into his ego, and getting him to believe him.

      And I also want to rewatch for Sonakshi’s performance. Like you say, it could be that the director told her to be purposefully opaque, unpleasant, to make the plot work better.

      On Wed, Nov 8, 2017 at 3:35 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

      • If he did not reveal the rape victim’s name in the book, then I must have misinterpreted the subtitles, because that’s what I thought it said. I watched a 10pm show, so it’s entirely possible that I misread it in my sleepy state.

        Like

        • Doesn’t matter, just made you smarter. You were able to catch a bunch of the other later clues probably because you were already operating ont he assumption that he leaked the name. Oh! You could reverse the watch order! Instead of watching it the first time trying to solve the mystery and the second time watching how Siddharth did it, you can watch it a second time pretending you didn’t know the answer and see if you would have been able to figure it out.

          Like

  5. Pingback: DDLJ Scene By Scene Part 35: Sisters Share Joy | dontcallitbollywood

  6. Pingback: Film Reviews | dontcallitbollywood

  7. Pingback: Things I am Thankful For | dontcallitbollywood

  8. Pingback: Box Office: Padmavati is Needed to Unite the Global Market | dontcallitbollywood

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s