Fact 1: Today, January 8, is Nanda’s birthday (mine too, but that’s a different matter).
Fact 2: Since one of Nanda’s finest performances is in Ittefaq, I’d decided I’d review Ittefaq today, as a tribute. Nanda deserves it!
Fact 3: Bollyviewer yesterday did an interesting post: a link to a youtube clip of the launch party of Ittefaq.
Mere coincidence? Perhaps.
And ittefaq, by the way, means coincidence.
So here goes: an unusual film (it has no songs and is less than two hours long), very watchable and with some fine performances.
The film begins with the murder of Sushma, wife of a famous artist called Dilip Roy (Rajesh Khanna). Sushma’s sister Renu (Bindu), who lives with the couple, accuses Roy of having murdered Sushma. She tells CID Inspector Karve (Iftekhar, in one of his best cop roles) that Roy had married Sushma for her money, and they didn’t get along well—Sushma wanted to party, Roy wanted to paint. The latest quarrel had resulted in Roy throttling Sushma.
The police arrest Roy, though he says he’s innocent. In fact, he goes berserk—he fights, tries to strangle Renu, and then, when his case goes to court, threatens to kill the judge. The powers that be decide Roy’s insane, and he’s admitted to a mental hospital run by Dr Trivedi (Jagirdar). A few days later, on a stormy evening, Dr Trivedi receives simultaneous visits from two people connected to Dilip Roy’s case: Inspector Dewan (Sujit Kumar) and the Police Prosecutor Mr Khanna (Madan Puri).
Dilip Roy is summoned to meet the two men. He acts rational and irrational by turn, finally raving and ranting that he’s caught between the devil and the deep blue sea: mad, and he ends up in the loony bin for the rest of his life; sane, and he’s sentenced to death. He eventually gets violent, and Inspector Dewan, along with a constable, removes him from Dr Trivedi’s office.
On the way back to his cell, Roy breaks free, grabs Dewan’s revolver, and makes a dash for it. It’s pouring with rain, and Roy eludes the pursuing police. He breaks into a nearby home, scaring the wits out of its sole occupant, a beautiful young woman called Rekha (Nanda). She admits to Roy that she’s all alone at home, her husband Jagmohan, a salesman, being away in Calcutta.
Rekha tries to escape, or to attract help—by telephoning, by flashing a torch, etc—but Roy manages to prevent her each time. She’s initially terrified, defiant, and weepy by turn, but after a while seems to reconcile herself to her fate. She even gives Roy Jagmohan’s clothes to change into, since Roy’s own clothes—his mental hospital `uniform’—being wet.
Rekha also gets a couple of visitors: Dr Trivedi comes with Dewan, to caution Rekha, since Dilip has escaped from the asylum nearby and is on the loose. They reassure her that two constables have been put on duty outside her home. The doctor and the cop gone, Rekha’s chatty neighbour Basanti (Shammi) turns up, asking for some milk. She doesn’t realise Roy’s around, but by the time she leaves, Rekha’s all nerves.
Roy has, in the meantime, discovered that Rekha’s home is near the train station, and tells her that he’ll take a morning train out of town. Rekha begins to thaw a bit and admits that she doesn’t know whether to be scared of Roy, or to pity him. Eventually, she spreads a bedsheet for him on the carpet and says she’ll sleep on the couch.
Lights out, Rekha offers Roy whisky, and while he’s drinking (like a demure Bharatiya naari, she confines herself to sherbet), they chat. Rekha confesses that Jagmohan is a workaholic, whom she barely sees—he’s out of town 20 days a month. Roy tells Rekha that she’s very beautiful; there’s a subtle sort of chemistry here, but it’s never acknowledged.
Roy finally lies down on the carpet, with Rekha on the couch. When Roy dozes off, Rekha gets up, slides her house keys (which Roy had confiscated) from his pocket, and tries sneaking out. Roy is startled by the noise and comes awake, but can’t see Rekha, since the lights are out. He blunders about, dashing around the house to find her, and ends up bursting into the bathroom, where he sees something rather unusual.
It’s Rekha’s husband, Jagmohan, whom Roy recognises from a photo in the house. Roy screams, and Dewan—who’s at that moment outside, checking with the cops—hears the yell. He rings the doorbell, and Roy runs up to hide in the bedroom while Rekha opens the door and lets in Dewan. She manages to somehow ward him off.
Roy emerges from the bedroom, accusing Rekha of having murdered Jagmohan. Rekha insists it’s all in his imagination, and she proves it too: the bathtub’s empty.
Meanwhile, CID Inspector Karve, along with his assistant Khan (Jagdish Raj) has found something stuck in the paint on Dilip Roy’s palette. [Aside: Shouldn’t this have been investigated long before Roy was dragged off to jail?] They also meet Renu, who is nervous because she’s worried that Roy will now come for her.
What is happening? Where did Jagmohan’s corpse disappear? And was it there in the first place? Or is this all part of Dilip Roy’s madly careening imagination? Watch: this is, in my opinion, one of the tautest and best crime films ever made in Hindi cinema—and the twist in the end is brilliant.
What I liked about this film:
It’s very well made. The writing is snappy and precise, with almost no digressions and distractions. Everything leads up to the finale, and the suspense, with its many twists, is perfect: Yash Chopra does a great bit of directing.
Nanda. I tend to think of this as one of her best films: every emotion—coquetry, friendliness, defiance, exhaustion, resignation, whatever—is superb.
The supporting cast. This is one film where the supporting cast does a very good job, and actually has quite a bit to do. Iftekhar, particularly, is excellent; so is Shammi, in a brief but endearing role as the loud Punjabi neighbour, Basanti.
What I didn’t like:
I don’t understand the need for Madan Puri’s role. He’s a good actor, but only has a couple of scenes which add nothing to the story.
The bulk of the action in Ittefaq takes place between midnight and 5 AM. Despite that, there seems to be a lot of coming and going. For the police and Dr Trivedi, this is probably not unbelievable—after all, Roy is supposed to be criminally insane and on the loose—but I wonder why Renu seems to be up and about. Most farfetched are the phone calls in the wee hours of the morning, all of them certainly not so urgent that they couldn’t wait till dawn.
But those are merely two insignificant little irritants. And forgivable, when you see the film as a whole.
Little bit of trivia:
Ittefaq was made in just 28 days. BR Chopra had, at the time, been filming Aadmi aur Insaan, and had to stop work on that because his heroine, Saira Banu, broke a leg. To tide over the idle time, he made Ittefaq.