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‘Ittefaq’ film review: Akshaye Khanna shines in a sleek whodunit

Abhay Chopra’s directorial debut is an engrossing murder mystery about two murders that take place in the same night.

A 107-minute thriller without distracting songs and subplots that actually works? Yes, Bollywood can.

In Abhay Chopra’s Ittefaq, a remake of the 1969 movie of the same name, red-hot murders are explored with cold and welcome efficiency. The original film, starring Rajesh Khanna and Nanda, was in turn borrowed from the 1964 Hollywood thriller Signpost To Murder. The latest version, written by Chopra, Shreyas Jain and Nikhil Mehrotra, takes some ideas from both productions while fashioning a film that is both a sleek and original thriller as well as a throwback to older Bollywood suspense dramas.

Ittefaq is so sleek, in fact, that it occasionally threatens to slip out of grasp. The mystery is set during Mumbai’s monsoon, and involves two bodies and one cynical and caustic-tongued investigating officer who is working against a deadline. The first murder takes place at a five-star hotel; the second at a luxurious apartment filled with expensive glass, reflective surfaces and subdued lighting. In this world of shimmering surfaces, fashionably underlit corners and modish people, the truth proves to be extremely slippery.

On the run after being accused of killing his wife, bestselling author Vikram (Sidharth Malhotra) takes refuge in Maya’s apartment, only to stumble onto the second crime scene of the night. Maya’s husband has been killed, and Maya (Sonakshi Sinha) points her finger at Vikram, reasoning that murder comes easily to him.

Vikram protests his innocence, causing the creases on the forehead of police officer Dev (Akshaye Khanna) to deepen. An update on a stock character often played by the dapper 1970s staple Iftekhar, Dev is the only one in the room using his brains. One culprit, in fact, emerges early in the movie – the famously inefficient Mumbai police, often fatuously described to being “second only to Scotland Yard”.

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Ittefaq (2017).

Ittefaq undercuts some of its potential for suspense by including numerous flashbacks, some of which merely repeat details that are already known. Yet, for the most part, the narrative hums along smoothly, and benefits tremendously from returning ever so often to Dev. Superbly played by Akshaye Khanna, Dev is Ittefaq’s most interesting character. Dev gets many smart lines and standout moments as he moves easily between his cosy home, the grimy police station teeming with bumblers, and the posh murder locales. Chopra also makes good use of Malhotra and Sinha by limiting the duration of their screen time and leaving Khanna to do the heavy lifting.

For once, the locations, production design and cinematography are actually at the service of the plot rather than being used for decorative purposes. The numerous red herrings are viewed by cinematographer Michael Luka through coloured filters and mood lighting. The plot pivots on coincidence, but Ittefaq’s pleasures are entirely by design.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.