Director: Sriram Raghavan
Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Tabu, Radhika Apte, Anil Dhawan
Composer: Raftaar, Amit Trivedi
In Sriram Raghavan’s Andhadhun, everyone is wicked to a fault. There is a blind man (Ayushmann Khurrana as Akash) whose disability and motives induce suspicion. A wily seductress (Tabu as Simi) who makes us question when she’s pretending and when she isn’t. An auto driver and a lottery-note hawker have different jobs when the sun goes down. Even the unnamed kid running around in the compounds of Akash’s house has some impish ideas up his sleeve. There is devil in the detail and in the foreshadowing. Simi mixes a spicy gravy, gets her hands all red and hugs her husband, yesteryear star Pramod Sinha (Anil Dhawan kind of playing himself). She has blood on her hands long before we see blood elsewhere.
The yesteryear star is still living in his yesteryear. His house is dotted with posters of his old films and he checks YouTube comments – his version of “googling oneself” – under his songs to see if anyone’s commented about him. Andhadhun, in true Sriram Raghavan fashion (writing credits to Raghavan, Arijit Biswas, Pooja Ladha Surti and Yogesh Chandekar) is wicked, beginning to end. Except for one person – Radhika Apte’s Sofie. She’s the only character capable of registering offense. She expresses shock and surprise at some of the things she sees and hears. Even Simi inquiring about her relationship with Akash is alien to her. She is our, the audience’s, stand-in. Everyone else is incapable of feeling anything.
It is also Raghavanesque in familiar ways. In Johnny Gaddaar, we see a fish being seasoned before the beginning of slaughter and deceit, and here, there is a crab on the stove. A decrepit, empty hospital by the railroad (another staple from Johnny Gaddaar) functions as a den for malignant players with malicious intentions. Like Gaddaar, there are references to and footage used from older films. The discernible stains on the yellowing walls of Akash’s house indicate a couple of blindfold related accidents. Akash is a pianist, a self-confessed artist. He is also self-conscious, he thinks if he could focus all his energy on one sense – hearing – he would be better at his art.
Andhadhun is unique in that it also shows you everything. We see some things and wonder, “should we be seeing this? That’s it?” Isn’t this the suspense? Well, it is not so unique either. It is after all Hitchcockian and Andhadhun is nothing if not Hitchcockian. Raghavan shows everything. And then he makes you wait, makes you laugh as we’re taken through the rabbit hole with the situation spiraling out of control. Andhadhun boasts of some other Hitchcock staples too. A murder is committed by pushing someone down from a high-rise. The camera pulls up from a winding staircase as a man climbs to the top of a building with great speed. The shot is beautiful. As does the claustrophobic – more Hitchcock – resolution that follows.
Seeing and hearing is important in Andhadhun. At different points, different characters are capable of only one of the two senses. Akash can see at times and during another time, he can only hear. Simi cannot see and begs Akash to help her around a store room. Sofie wears an eye-mask while having sex with Akash. Akash’s senses during this instance are questionable. A scene of crime becomes a great tool in the hands of Raghavan. He displays remarkable visual flair because there are no lines and only a piano soundtrack. A murder gets erased to the sound of waltz, the act itself performed like an amateur theatre company on their opening day, complete with exits to the left and right of stage. Tabu breaks a leg in this sequence, underperforming like a veteran’s understudy taking to the stage for the first time.
At one point, Akash tells someone in a different context that he is looking for inspiration, not perspiration. But when he is thrust into an elaborate plot devised by schemers, beads of sweat are what he gets. And there isn’t just one schemer. Akash gets caught in a web and the film becomes a series of unhappy coincidences. Unhappy for Akash but filmed with infectious humor for the rest of us. This sort of a genre exercise from Raghavan isn’t a surprise. But the amount of fun and humor quotient in this film is a pleasant shock. Sriram Raghavan gives us both – inspiration and perspiration. It’s difficult to talk about Andhadhun without spoiling it for everybody or without overuse of adjectives. We can say one thing, alluded to from the working title of the film – the piano player doesn’t get shot.
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