A complete knockout punch in the dark, de noir, thriller filmmaking genre, shot with eyes wide open to grab the veins of morality, faith, fate, aspirations, the charisma of evil, the philosophy of life and dark, dark humor. ANDHADHUN is a masterstroke by the master Sriram Raghavan who is now the uncrowned king of Bollywood’s dark, de noir, thriller genre and the true inherent of modern day Hitchcock in this part of the world.
ANDHADHUN (haphazard, not in order) is a brilliantly placed amalgamations of quirky madness, the allure of the evil and the power of fate and faith where we see a blind pianist, his smart girlfriend, a star from the retro era, his beautiful young wife and murders that happen one after the another, get coiled with a quirky adage which goes like “What is life?”, and the answer is “it all depends on the liver”.
Starting from a cabbage field where a helpless rabbit is running wildly to save himself from the bullet of a hunter, we see cats, fascinating piano music where yeh jeevan hai and teri galiyon maein etc is played with élan, gets twined with blood red, as tribute to ‘chhaya geet’, ‘chitrahaar’ come officially in this riveting adaptation of the 2010 French short film L'ACCORDEUR (THE PIANO TUNER) directed by Oliver Treiner into a two hour plus cult thriller that dares you to blink your eyes even for a second.
Intensifying his love for Hitchcock in particular along with Chaplin, Coen Brothers and Indian retro greats - if it was Jyoti Swaroop’s PARWANA starring Amitabh Bachchan & Navin Nischol in JOHNNY GADDAAR, ANDHADHUN offers tribute to Vijay Anand’s style of development and mystery in TEESRI MANZIL, JEWEL THEIF.
A young blind pianist Akash (Ayushmann Khurrana) is struggling to find a tune to an upcoming competition in London. He accidently gets friendly with the daughter of a bar-owner (Radhika Apte). Akash gets the job to play there. One day Pramod Sinha ( Anil Dhawan) a star of yesteryears visits the bar and impressed by Akash’s skills offers him to perform privately at his residence as a wedding anniversary surprise to his sultry young wife Simi (Tabu), the beautiful Simi can easily add sensuous appeal to even a crab cooking video. Pramod Sinha’s house is filled with nostalgia, Sriram Raghavan in an act of brilliance casts the actual star of the 70’s Anil Dhawan (uncle of Varun Dhawan – for those who are not aware), posters of Anil Dhawan starrers CHETNA, HONEYMOON, DARWAAZA etc gives the actual feel, when we see Anil Dhawan spending time by watching his own videos and getting nostalgic, we as the audience feel the nostalgia at first and then are saddened by the curse of cruel fate and wonder what must have happened to people of those era when spotlight eluded them. The money offered is good and Akash accepts. He visits Pramod Sinha’s house and is privy to a murder. But how can a blind be a witness to a crime?.
The mastery in Raghavan’s film is not the mystery about whodunit, we know who has done it and still the core element of what will happen next remains till the very end, ironically, we stop caring about the reason behind the murder and are intrigued in knowing what will happen next?!!.
The clash of morality, the illusions of what mind thinks and what the naked eye sees gets perfectly coined in this work of art by Raghavan which will be a talking point in its genre in coming days.
That defining moment when Akash finds himself involved in a crime, a scene that feels like watching a classic silent film, Akash plays the piano and a dead body is disposed of, wrapped in a suitcase, the culprits remove the ring and watch from the dead bodies hand as it hangs out from the suitcase, no dialogues only the sound of piano. This is sheer class; and act of genius. This particular sequence in itself like the great Chaplin’s short films with big messages is enough to make your day.
Each and every character has a role to play, be it the rustic lottery seller Chaya Kadam, the police officer Manav Vij, his wife Ashwini Kalsekar, Simi’s neighbor, the mischievous kid played by Kabir Sajid, the doctor Zakir Hussain, the rickshawala, all are the victim and beneficiaries of their good/evil nature and faith.
The writing by Hemanth Rao and Raghavan (story) gets an exceptionally racy, intense, deep script by Arijit Biswas, Pooja Ladha Surti that comes with layers.
Performances are of remarkable depth, Ayushmann Khurrana’s gives his best till date. Tabu is the perfect choice for Simi the character that demands change in shades faster than a chameleon. Radhika Apte excels in a smaller role.
Amit Trivedi's music is a boon, piano that has found place in many classics like ANDAZ, ANMOL GADI TEEN DEVIAH etc, even in hard core action packed blockbusters like Sunny Deol’s GHAYAL, the antagonist Amrish Puri was shown trying to find solace in pressing the keyboards of piano. The instrumental versions of old classics are soothing.
K.U. Mohanan’s incredible camerawork, amazing sound design by Madhu Apsara, Daniel B George's marvelous background score and Pooja Ladha Surti’s sharp editing and top rated production values makes ANDHADHUN a masterly crafted piece of art technically as well.
Now the flip side, the second half is not that quirky, Sriram Raghavan is prone to suffering from this disease but the silver lining is that it’s for a short period this time. The location of the lake where the dead body is said be thrown doesn’t jell with the narrative and seems somewhat out of place.
All said and done, ANDHADHUN is a classic example on how to turn a source material into a cinematic gold by exceptional filmmaking art. ANDHADHUN is not only Sriram Raghavan’s best work till date, it’s Bollywood’s best in the dark, noir thriller genre, which is will be remembered as a cult classic in coming years. Even that rabbit has significant role to play. ‘see’ that you don’t miss it.