Ittefaq (1969)

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.

Nanda in Ittefaq

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.

Renu accuses Dilip of Sushma's murder

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).

Inspector Dewan, Mr Khanna and Dr Trivedi

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.

Dewan and a constable drag Roy off

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.

Roy breaks into Rekha's house

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 gives Roy Jagmohan's clothes

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.

Basanti comes chatting

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.

Rekha spreads a sheet for Roy

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 and Rekha have a drink

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.

The corpse in the bathtub

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.

Rekha wards off Inspector Dewan

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.

Inspector Karve and Khan meet Renu

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.

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27 thoughts on “Ittefaq (1969)

  1. I so agree, this is a great suspenseful film…and Happy Birthday! I *heart* Nanda too, I think she’s so underrated by people. So Happy Birthday to her too.

  2. Happy Burday to you!!!! :-)

    Me too, on this film. I loved it and it never once struck me that the neighbours wouldnt be dropping in for a chat after midnight! For a well done suspense drama like this I am willing to suspend disbelief ad infinitum. :-) I used to like Nanda a lot better in her B/W younger sister roles. She was so cute and believable as the put-upon, innocent younger sister and could cry so convincingly – like in Bhabhi, Toofan Aur Diya and even Hum Dono as the frail and devoted wife. Her colored avatar was often so whiny and annoying that I’d rather not see those movies – but this one was good.

  3. Hey bollyviewer, memsaab: thank you so much for the wishes – it does feel nice to know I share my burday with Nanda!

    Memsaab: Yup, I totally agree that Nanda was much better in her B/W avatar – though I have to confess I gritted my teeth through most of Chhoti Bahen: she was just too put upon in that one! She’s too shrill in some of her coloured films, though I tend to like her in stuff like Gumnaam (overall a great entertainer!) and Joroo ka Ghulam. Also Abhilasha.

  4. Happy Birthday. Belated. I loved Nanda in ‘Shor’. She haunted me. I remember seeing ‘Ittefaq’ as a kid, and yes, it’s a really taut suspense film.

  5. Thank you very much!
    Yes, Nanda was quite mesmerising in Shor, wasn’t she? Despite the fact that she actually had more of a guest appearance than anything else – and that song “Ek pyaar ka naghma hai” was so beautiful. Still one of my favourite songs.

  6. Ittefaq means coincidence sometimes life appears to be a string of coincidence unrelated to any logic. This is a coincidence of a man charged for murder fleeing from the law and getting involved in another murder – a murder he did not commit.A lonely night. A comfortable house. a beautiful girl alone. Rekha (Nanda) switches on the ratio and hears that a lunatic murderer has escaped from the mental asylum.The door bursts open and Dilip Roy (Super Star Rajesh Khanna) enters. That is when a chance encounter turns a quiet night in to a nightmare – Rekha is reduced to a prisoner in her own house.Roy had no alternative, but to take refuge in the first house that came his way, since he is on the run from the police. But these few hours in that house become a small world where a larger than life drama takes place from midnight to dawn.
    Ittefaq is a story of just one night, one man, one woman and one big coincidence.


    Golden glimpses of Super Star Rajesh Khanna proving that the decades may come and go but the romantic hero’s charisma will remain intact for the rest of the coming decades and decades.

  7. Yes, I liked the suspense in Ittefaq a lot – somehow not too many Hindi movies of that era could quite manage it. I liked CID, Teesri Manzil, etc, but they were all more masala than pure suspense – the song and dance didn’t stop for a murder! ;-). And you know, I’m so glad to come across someone who also isn’t a diehard Rajesh Khanna fan! He’s good in some films (this included, of course), but I find him hammy in lots of films.

  8. Wow, belated birthday wishes to you… I hope you had a lovely birthday! I really haven’t enjoyed the mystery/suspense genre in Hindi cinema very much so far (I somehow tend not to find them very ‘gripping’), so I will look forward to catching this one sometime.

  9. Thank you! And yes, I tend to agree that mystery is not really Bollywood’s forte. Among the few suspense/mystery films I’ve liked are this one (obviously) and the Vinod Khanna starrer Inkaar - that’s a very good one too. I like CID a lot as well, but that’s more the masala thriller genre, I think: songs. comedy, et al, which perhaps dilutes the mystery element.

  10. I need to see this film.

    My favourite film in the genre is Mahal. The thing I like most about it is that it is not just a simple mystery/suspense film. It’s moody and has a great haunting score. Ah! Now I want to run back home and watch the film. Hope I can complete work on time. *fingers crossed*

  11. It’s been a long, long time since I saw Mahal… I have very sketchy memories of it, but yes, the score is superb. I especially love Aayega Aanewaala – and the aalaap is sublime. In fact, I’d probably say the aalaap is the best part of the song!

  12. a great movie, this was!
    belated happy birthday.
    somehow I have a soft corner for nanda. maybe because shashi like her too. At times she is as worse as mala sinha, but only at times.
    But she is, as memsaab says, underrated.
    wish we could see more of her.
    how about movie with her, waheeda rehman, sharmila tagore, Asha parekh, sadhana in hindi version of 8 femmes with some younger heroines.
    And there are 8 songs!
    wow!

  13. Ah, that would have been lovely! May I add a few more ladies to the list? There could be item numbers by Helen, Mumtaz, and Laxmi Chhaya ;-)

    Maybe I’m biased, but I do think all the actresses you mentioned had so much more class than the ones who succeeded them…Bollywood declined after the 70’s. Sad.

  14. agree with you completely!
    but have you watched 8 femmes? it is really a great movie.
    the songs are incorporated so perfectly in the movie. It is sensational.
    try to find it if you can.

    I think Mumtaz and Geeta Bali are the only two actresses, for whom I would watch any movie, never mind how crappy they are!

  15. I had this in line for Rajesh’s birthday which is today by the way (Happy Birthday Kaka) you’ve pretty much covered all there is to it. Nanda was soo sexy and the way the whole thing was set up i wanted her and Rajesh to fall in love, i know it was wrong but there was just so much chemistry btw them. A fab film but i was somewhat disappointed when i found out it was a remake of Signpost to murder which i haven’t seen and is hard to come by

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059718/

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059718/movieconnections

  16. I friend of mine told me later that Ittefaq was based on a Hollywood film – thank you for telling me which one it was!

    Whatever, I thought Ittefaq was great: so very entertaining, and the suspense was terrific. Now I’ve got to try and get hold of Signpost to Murder!

  17. Amazing movie!
    Few things were pretty weird – like Basanti coming so late in the night asking for milk and Mr. Khanna calling Renu in the middle of the night to check on her. Wonder if they had intended showing another love story there ;-)
    But like what bollyviewer said For a well done suspense drama like this I am willing to suspend disbelief ad infinitum. :-)

  18. Absolutely! And otherwise, it’s generally so well executed that I am willing to forgive a couple of minor problems… now I must try and get hold of Signpost to Murder!

  19. Recently after watching some of her films, I have developed very strong and intense liking for Actress Nanda. When watching Mehndi Lagi Meray Haath movie, I came to watch madhur song – Kankariya Maarey Kar key Isharey. This madhur song lost me in golden years of my life of 1961 when I was 14 years school going boy and used to very fondly listen this song as then no TVs. Nanda while has travelled 73 stages of her life, I have reached 65 in this way made me young. She is thus an actress of all ages and times, eternal, never to become old or of yesteryears and never to recede in delusion of grandeur in the splendor of which she has all through lived and remembered. Nanda is an actress who is seldom born and once born become eternal. Nanda in fact had already become a legend in a very young age in famous movie Choti Behan (song – Baghoan main baharoan main Gun Gata aiya koi). She has given so much that stars of the stature of Jetendra, Shashi Kapoor and Anjahani Rajesh Khana owed her a lot for their ascendanency to become great. She is therefore, non imitable, unparallel, legend of the legends and a goddess. She is so great that in fact I fail to find words to truly described her. I highly adore Great Nanda and strongly wish I could write a book on her as some service to this great star.

    Spoiler ahead:

    As to movie Ittefaq, I would perhaps have liked the film had the Nanda so adorable to me and with finest of images was not given the role of a woman who finally turned out to have committed the ghasty crime.

  20. Aaj hai 8 January ka din
    Aaj ka din hai bara mahan
    Aaj key din ek phool khila tha
    Jis sey mehka sara jahan
    Naam hai us kanwal ka anmol Nanda
    Ley key aye woh piyar wa ulfat ka pegham
    Jiske janam sey chamka hai sara jahan!

    I fondly rejoice and most
    sincerely convey my Best Wishes on happy
    occasion of Birth Day, 8 January 2013, of my beloved Heroine NANDA.

    Wishing you, adoring Great NANDA, a day that is as special in every way as you are. Happy Birthday.

    Aap Zinda Rahain Hazar Baras
    Har Baras Key Din Hoan Pachas Hazar!

  21. I had heard that Mala Sinha was the initial choice for this role but she was not able to accommodate with the dates they had to cast Nanda instead and she did a great job .

    • Oh, didn’t know that. Interesting. Considering Ittefaq was made in such record time, I suppose they didn’t have much scope for juggling dates to suit an actor. But yes, Nanda did do a fantastic job in the film.

  22. Nanda looked lovely , innocent in the B & W Era especially in Sarees , but in late sixties she decided to break her image of simplicity and opted for glamour and wearing very tight “Khameez and Churidars” & western outfits and looked very bulky especially in the waist below area which was an unpleasant site. Still she could coceal her bulges better the sarees despite that her innocent face and effortlees performance was well liked by many.It is really sad that actress like Nanda – Mala Sinha-Shyama -Shakila -Niimi have never beedn bestowed or considered for Life Achievement Awards so far. “what a shame “

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