A sign of how much you’ve enjoyed seeing a movie or reading a book is that the first thing you want to do is tell someone else about it immediately. It’s human instinct. With Andhadhun, the feeling grows cumulatively as Sriram Raghavan throws his deliciously macabre telling of adultery, murder, and blackmail at you. Lock, stock, and two smoking barrels.
This review discloses some plot details in talking about the film
Aakash is a pianist pretending to be blind. This act fetches him a successful stint as a pianist in Franco’s, a local joint in Pune. Sophie is the owner’s daughter, and she falls for him. His performances earn him a private concert with Pramod Sinha, a yesteryear filmstar who loves to watch his own films, and is recently married to Simi, his second wife. This basic plot is the foundation of the film. What follows next is an endless stream of deception and death, served with a generous dose of satire.
One of the finest scenes we’ll see in Bollywood is when Aakash goes for his private concert to Pramod’s house. It’s a bold, brazen scene with devilishly good writing making it work. He plays the piano, while Simi, believing that he is blind, works to dispose of Pramod’s body with her lover in tow. She talks to him, pretends to have a conversation with a recorded voice of her husband, stages his quick entry and exit, and then collapses into tears at what she’s done. Aakash is stunned at what he is seeing, but he is supposed to be blind. He continues to play the piano all through the scene, pretending as if nothing is amiss. The entire sequence is choreographed as a mime performance in a silent film, much like a Charlie Chaplin movie. The audacity of the idea reminds you of the brilliantly conceived and shot Raabta from Agent Vinod, also with the piano at the center of it.
There’s another murder to cover up the first, and of course, the blind Aakash is witness to it with Simi seeing him as the witness. She does not buy his act, proceeds to expose him, and in the process actually manages to make him blind. This is no-holds-bar writing, and can very easily come unhinged with any other director. But Raghavan is a master of mixing nuance with madcap. In the way Simi easily manages to cover up murders, or Aakash rings her doorbell and then realising that he is blind, pretends to try and find it and then ring it again (even though no one’s looking), or the fabulously chicken-shit scared lover played by Manav Vij who’s doing either what his wife says or what Simi says, the detailing of these small effects are excellent.
Some scenes just stand out for the way they connect with the audience. Simi comes to Aakash’s house to expose his act. She asks him for coffee. We see him shuffling in the kitchen, making the coffee. He turns to pick up a dish from the adjoining table, and we see Tabu wearing a ghost mask and sitting on the table. It’s pure shock value, and you feel how hard it must be for Aakash to not have reacted at all to this. It’s also hilarious because Tabu is sitting deadpan with a ghost mask. This stuff is pure magic. There are many such moments in the way his character is written, where we’re walking on a tightrope waiting for his act to be exposed. That Raghavan pulls this act off is telling of his complete control of the craft.
The film is littered with subtexts and references of the things that Raghavan loves. Anil Dhawan playing the past-his-prime actor lets him parade songs and scenes from his films of the 70s. Tabu talking about Hamlet, followed by a scene where she’s clearly playing Lady Macbeth (blood on her hands, on less), a repeated shot of an auto-rickshaw with Aishwarya Rai painted behind it, closing one eye. These are things that tell you how much fun the filmmaker is also having with his work.
Tabu and Ayushmann Khurrana inhabit these unusual characters with solid performances. She is a temptress and a murderer, casually able to feel sorry for the husband she murdered because he was a “nice guy”. In any other film, she’d be chilling. Ayushmann is excellent as the pianist pretend to be blind who really turns blind.
Andhadhun is full of grey characters, every one deep in deception. They are perfect chess pieces for Raghavan to twist his tale each time you think the plot’s going on an arc. The film amply proves that it’s completely up to the filmmaker to do something genuinely intelligent and funny that a mainstream audience can appreciate. This is why it is a genre-breaking film that will stand out in mainstream Hindi cinema for all those who watch it.
Hindi, Black Comedy, Thriller, Color