There is a scene between the Police Officer investigating the crime in this thriller and the main suspect, a novelist called Vikram Sethi (Sidharth Malhotra), that tells you something about popular perceptions about novelists. While interrogating the writer, no relation to Vikram Seth, Officer Dev (Akshaye Khanna) asks him why he looks so suave and well dressed. A writer, he says, should be in a crumpled ‘kurta’, with a well worn ‘jhola’ slung over his shoulder.
This cop is completely out of date, and his imagery straight out of 1969, when the original ‘Ittefaq’ was made. His junior officers are hopelessly dated as well. After a reference to ‘hit’ writer, Chetan Bhagat, they brief him, in comparative terms, on Vikram’s work, like they would on a Hindi film actor; his first book was a hit, the second a flop, and the latest a total write off. No wonder, they say, he murdered the publisher.
The publisher also happened to be his English wife, Catherine, so it was a literary coup; two birds with one chapter. The first story goes that after bumping off Catherine, Vikram was on the run and happened to find shelter in the apartment of a young and attractive housewife, Maya (Sonakshi Sinha). She looked at the bleeding and dishevelled writer, invited him in, and offered him a drink. They had a lot in common. She, too, had just murdered her spouse.
On first impression, the whole scenario appears to be a cheerful evening of abrupt ends to troubled marriages. But later, it turns out, Maya has an ulterior motive to her easy conviviality with Vikram. Since he is already a murder suspect (she sees this on TV), she plans to frame him in the murder of her husband as well.
The second story, which is Maya’s narrative, naturally, is quite different. Director Abhay Chopra cross-cuts between the two versions of that evening, keeping us reasonably entertained with Police Officer Dev’s laconic comments at the end of each contradiction of either narrative. In truth, it is not much of a murder mystery, since you can predict the end by estimating the running time of the movie. When conclusive evidence is found to nail one of the suspects, and it seems to be all over bar the conviction, there is still 15 minutes to go.
The best thing about ‘ittefaq’ is that it is a non judgemental work. No character in the film is judged for his or her morals. The dimensions of their actions is described entirely in circumstantial terms. The subject of ethics, and the notion of crime and punishment, is left suspended, quite literally, in mid-air. This is refreshing in a Hindi film.