The film opens with a car chase and as a car flips over, an injured man is seen running away. He is careful that the cops don’t catch up with him. There is very little chance that the incompetent cops in Abhay Chopra’s remake of the 1969 murder mystery will ever catch up with the runaway. They are seen sleeping, eating, violating crime scenes and using empty threats and bluster to intimidate suspects.

Over three rainy nights (and very little daytime), a zealous police investigator named Dev (Akshaye Khanna) is on a deadline to solve a double murder. There are two suspects. The first is UK-based celebrated author, Vikram (Sidharth Malhotra), whose wife is found dead in a hotel room. On the same night, the husband of a woman named Maya (Sonakshi Sinha) is found dead in their home, in a pool of blood. Vikram is linked to both the crime scenes.

The 1969 version featured Rajesh Khanna, Nanda and Iftekhar whereas the reboot headlines Siddharth Malhotra, Sonakshi Sinha and Akshaye Khanna. Writers Chopra, Shreyas Jain and Nikhil Mehrotra have adapted the thriller and made ample amendments while keeping a few critical elements intact, including keeping out songs and maintaining a running time less than two hours (107 minutes). Yet, in spite of the length, the story doesn’t keep you guessing. If you have watched enough films of the genre, it’s not too challenging to guess the whodunit. But the reveal is handled well – it was the only time I was truly immersed. Michal Luka’s camerawork creates the mood, but the emotional core and edge is missing, until the end.

As a police procedural, it’s half-hearted. There is scant investigation and mostly interrogation. Plus the script has already set you up to expect very little from the disinterested, incompetent men in khaki.

The actor who maintains a poker face, and perfects his grimace is Khanna. As the dedicated cop determined to catch the killer (or killers), he is the glue that binds this noir thriller. His character is also the one most finely defined – a well-spoken, dryly witty family man with a commitment to finding the truth. Khanna elevates the film’s acting graph too, with Malhotra offering up too little too late and Sinha barely making any impression.

In order to be curious, fascinated, intrigued about these deaths, one needs to care about the characters, believe in their stories. The look and feel is in place and so is the big twist. These two factors make Ittefaq a serviceable thriller, but not a genre-defining experience.

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