By Deepa Gahlot
Sriram Raghavan’s Andhadhun, is inspired by Oliver Trennier’s French short film, L’Accordeur, and dedicated to once popular Doordarshan programmes Chhayageet and Chitrahaar.
The real surprise is the return of 1970s star Anil Dhawan (who disappeared inexplicably from the movie scene), playing a former star, Pramod Sinha, so there are posters, clips and songs from the movies Dhawan starred in—the most memorable being Teri galiyon mein na rakhengen kadam from Hawas (1974).
The protagonist Akash (Ayushmann Khurrana) is a blind pianist, who, while working on a tune for a competition in London, finds employment in a restaurant run by Sophie (Radhika Apte), where he meets Sinha. The star, flattered by his film tunes that Akash plays, invites him to his home to surprise his much younger wife Simi (Tabu) on their wedding anniversary.
Akash’s life goes haywire after that visit, and he gets embroiled in the desperate plots of Simi and her lover, a cop Manohar (Manav Vij). Simi is the perfect femme fatale, cool in a crisis and able to think on her feet.
Till mid-point, Raghavan sets up a nostalgia-laden crime thriller, in which it is impossible to predict what happens next. Once other characters like an evil doctor and his two cohorts, plus the cop’s wife jump into the fray, the film turns about greed and cruelty, and the script becomes too schematic.
When the film stayed on the problems Akash inadvertently gets into, it was enjoyable; later as it ties itself up into knots and looks for macabre ways to despatch various characters, it loses some of its wicked charm, and also the emotional empathy built up for Akash.
Still with KU Mohanan’s moody visuals and Pooja Ladha Surti’s snappy editing (she is also one of the writers), Raghavan keeps a grip on the narrative, dots all the Is and crosses all the Ts, so the viewer leaves the hall knowing what happened to the rabbit that appears in the beginning.
Tabu in her “Lady Macbeth” (as a character refers to her) avatar has been perfectly cast—one can’t think of anyone else who could have played this part with such razor’s edge balance. Ayushmann Khurrana’s pick of roles has been remarkable, and his Akash is a wonderful addition to his filmography.
Raghavan is in his element here, as he is with pulp thrillers (Agent Vinod was an unfortunate misstep) that do not bother much about morality or redemption, as long as the audience is kept alert, and nobody can take a second to check their phone.
Directed by Sriram Raghavan
Cast: Tabu, Ayushmann Khurrana, Radhika Apte, Anil Dhawan and others
Deepa Gahlot is one of India’s seniormost and best known entertainment journalists. A National Awardwinning film critic, Deepa has watched more movies and theatre than most people in the country. An author of several books on film and theatre, she has had an extremely successful run as head of theatre and film at the National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai, during which she helped nurture several original productions. For Xyngr, Deepa Gahlot reviews theatre and cinema.