Remakes are the flavour of cinema these days. Not many however, are found in the thriller genre. Ittefaq is not exactly a remake of the 1969 thriller of the same name, but the basic skeleton of the original has been borrowed very intelligently by the debutant director Abhay Chopra. He has added completely new flesh to this skeleton to give it a new image and converted it from a psychological crime thriller to a police thriller.

Does it work? You bet it works specially when Akshaye Khanna literally lights up the screen and the story with his suave irony blended into his acute power of observation, caustic humour and clever lines as police inspector Dev.

What really is the thriller genre all about? This genre branches out to different genres such as the detective thriller, the psychological crime thriller, the spy thriller, the horror thriller and the police thriller. Often, directors blend two or three genres to make a composite thriller that sometimes works and sometimes does not. So far as the audience is concerned, thriller genres do not matter.

What matters is whether the suspense, the fear, the thrill and the action make it an edge-of-the-seat, nail;-biting, spell-binding thriller. Does Ittefaq achieve this? In terms of the dynamic action and the fast pace, it does. In terms of the coincidences, there happen to be one too many that somewhat needless drags the film’s excellent, open-ended climax.

“There are three versions of this murder mystery,” explains Dev to his team. “One is Maya’s version, one is Vikram’s version and one is the Truth.” When this ‘truth’ is unveiled, a new police chase begins. Dev discovers the truth by fluke through a random comment by his wife and not via his investigation or his chases or prolonged interrogations. There is one very funny touch when an entire family, the women dressed to their teeth, with relatives calls the police and is surprised when there is no television camera to record their statements.

B.R. Chopra’s Ittefaq was an unusual film in terms of form and content because it was shot in the interiors of a Mumbai apartment with small slices of flashback. Yet, not once does the narrative drag. The dialogue and the visuals are concentrated on the two characters, the writer (Rajesh Khanna) running away from the police and the housewife (Nanda) visibly terrified of spending time with a fugitive suspected of having murdered his wife. There were no songs and the music was just right. The coincidence in the end triggered with a lighter found in the apartment ends a bit tamely, though, which marks a downside of this very well-made film.

In Abhay Chopra’s Ittefaq, in keeping with the electrifying switches in the story in terms of mood, the characters and their interactions, the camera and the editing move in jet-like pace from the rain-drenched streets of Mumbai in the middle of the night, into the luxurious apartment of a lawyer and his seductively dressed, beautiful wife Maya (Sonakshi Sinha), to the drab interiors of a police station, to the writer Vikram Sethi’s (Siddharth Malhotra) flat to occasionally peep into the family ambience of Dev, the police inspector with an intelligent wife (Mandira Bedi) who is a great fan of the writer. The “fan” bit is a bit strange considering that he has penned only one bestseller while the second was a flop and the third landed him in a massive mess. The sub-plot of the rape victim does not quite ‘belong”

There are tiny nuggets of humour laced with irony. For instance, when Dev steps into Maya’s apartment and finds a constable brining in a tray filled with cups of tea, he is visibly angry. But after a few minutes, as he picks a cup, he asks the junior whether he has added ginger. “There was no ginger sir,” the man sheepishly confesses. It is Dev’s script to lord over, improvise on, command and dominate, effectively marginalizing the other major characters in the film.

“These are stories, not just about policemen, but about the world of the policeman,” wrote Hillary Waugh in her book, The Police Procedural, (1976.) Ittefaq bears this out especially in the way it juxtaposes the rough-shod, brute and rude dealings of the small time cops with the polished, sophisticated and almost stylish attitude of Dev who is no less cold-blooded in his interrogations but packages them with style, pretending a bias towards the interrogated he does not possess..

A junior munching almonds or bhutta in front of a senior in duty hours is cinematic licence. The film focusses a lot on the camaraderie and bickering in and outside the police station, the interrelated activities of different branches of the police department, the questions that constantly keep dogging the police department and the day-to-day pressures of police work that makes it natural for a policeman to go to sleep behind the steering wheel when he has to put in extra hours right into the middle of the rainy night.

Police thrillers through time, have found more favour for television audiences than for film audiences mainly because the films did not concentrate on the police officer and paid more attention to the murder suspect and the victim. Abhay Chopra has woven a clever script that fluidly moves between the directness of an action film and the ambiguity of the crime and the killer.

This has greater appeal than if he would have concentrated on either the one or the other. Akshaye Khanna as a police officer investigating a crime is becoming a stereotype but it is a stereotype we would love to see again and again, he is that good. At times, one feels that he sucks the other actors’ performances.

Siddharth and Sonakshi try their best to do justice to the most challenging roles in their career but they fail to hold a candle to Akshaye Khanna. The only negative point in this song-less film is that the soundtrack and the background music are too loud, which is certainly not good in a crime thriller.

Well done Abhay Chopra and team. Ittefaq is a crime thriller that thrills, entertains and charges your grey cells all at once after a long time.