Trust Bollywood to gift us with potent examples of its creative bankruptcy. This time delivered in a Siddharth Malhotra-shaped package. That probably didn’t come out right, but bear with us.
In this week’s big ticket release, Ittefaq, we have Mr Malhotra, aka the male Katrina Kaif, playing a novelist for the second time in a career spanning just about a few years.
Think about it.
No, we are not undermining his intellectual capacity, but need we remind the director, Abhay Chopra, that Malhotra took five years to perfect his only expression.
So, yes, Malhotra is a novelist in this film which means he ditches singlets for grey tweed jackets and gives us a tantalising glimpse of his Cadbury chocolate abs just once. Shucks!
Now that I have addressed my biggest grievance against this film, let’s get to the task at hand.
Ittefaq is a quasi-remake of one of my favourite Yash Chopra films, the 1969 Rajesh Khanna-Nanda film of the same name. The taut psychological thriller was also known as a ‘no-song wonder’ because, it was a film without a song. To put things into perspective, a Rajesh Khanna film without a song in those days was like a Varun Dhawan film without misogyny.
The original Ittefaq was a hard-boiled psychological drama where Yash Chopra did not waste a single frame. Much of the film is set in an upmarket apartment of a rich woman (Nanda), where an escaped convict (Rajesh Khanna) is holding her hostage. A murder has been committed in the apartment and we don’t know till the end who the murderer is. In true Hitchcockian style, Chopra establishes the claustrophobic nature of the situation through tight close-ups and dizzying camera angles. Both the lead players, Nanda and Rajesh Khanna, seem to be verge of a breakdown. Which makes it easy to believe both their versions of the story.
Abhay Chopra’s Ittefaq is a stylistic departure. Actually, that would be an understatement. Abhay Chopra takes the core concept of the original film and converts into a bad one-liner trailer. ‘Between her truth and his truth, is the real truth’ or some such thing. Akshaye Khanna, who plays a salty cop in the film, keeps reciting this line like Baba Ramdev chants the Gayatri Mantra.
No one told Mr Chopra that using one word thrice in a sentence, is an overkill.
Fine, am nitpicking.
The drawing-room drama is turned into an interrogation room procedural, where one suspect account is slapped on other.
Also can Mr Chopra explain why are both his leads, the runaway convict and the distressed housewife, so ridiculously boring that you secretly wish that they both get convicted for the same murder?
Sinha, who takes on Nanda’s iconic role is woefully under-equipped for the character. All she has got in her armory are two stock expressions and a slinky nightgown. With furrowed brows she looks at the camera at crucial junctures of the film. One could mistake that for constipation but if you look intently, you can see an expression pass through her face.
Malhotra, who is the go-to guy when it comes to playing really, really bright characters in Bollywood (he has played a scientist in Baar Baar Dekho and a novelist in Kapoor and Sons) doesn’t even try. He is on auto-pilot mode. Pout, frown, repeat.
Which brings to the person in the enterprise who makes sense- Akshaye Khanna. I have a sneaking suspicion the sneering tone that he adopts while interrogating both these murder suspects is actually him telling the two, incredulously, “Tum acting karoge?”