Sriram Raghavan’s Andhadhun is a Gold pot, overflowing with Genius; to start with one, the title. A film about a blind pianist is titled Andhadhun, do not mistake it to be a simple wordplay with Andha and Dhun, not only figuratively but thematically too, the title captures the essence of this excellent slapdash ( Andhadhund ) thriller.
Ayushmann Khuraana plays Akash, a blind pianist, who has a cat and an inquisitive kid, as his companions, only until the chirpy Sophie comes along, smartly performed by Radhika Apte. The blind pianist, unwittingly gets entwined in a murder investigation along with Simi, played by Tabu. That is as much someone can reveal about this insanely entertaining plot. The set-up hardly takes any time, it throws you right in the middle of this sinister world of Sriram Raghavan and you can only hope for some redemption but cannot find any hint of it. Sriram goes full throttle without ever holding back from exploring the criminally under-explored darkness of the most civilized species, humans. Every character in Andhadhun is exploitative at some level, even the little kid outside Akash’s appartment thrives on the concepts of bribing and blackmail. People sitting beside me in the cinema hall were exclaiming at the darkness of the film and hey, did I tell you it is a comedy too. This is one masterstroke that intrigues an audience to continue to watch humans unleashing satanic acts on each other, without breaking a sweat, as it is cleverly disguised as a dark-comedy.
The writing is credited to as many as 5 people, including Sriram himself. Although the screenplay is filled with incredulous turn of events, the thrill comes more from the actors who transform this written content into living breathing human beings, the complaint is only that they don’t let the audience breathe, pummeling you with one twist after another. Seldom has an Indian film questioned our intelligence and conscience so seamlessly. Sriram Raghavan has the skill to create a world around these real characters, a world that is fantastic, in the most basic sense of the word. The throbbing narrative is skillfully complemented by the moody, mesmerizing piano riffs. The music, a rabbit, a cat and a crab add to the whimsical nature of the film. In a film about vision and the repercussions of having or not having vision, Sriram plays around with the framing, often using mirrors, creating a mirrored reflection of the characters’ tainted conscience.
Beneath all the twists and turns is the palpable pain of an artist, which Ayushmann Khuraana embodies. The struggle and suffering of an artist to create his masterpiece is the emotional hook of the film. Never overplaying the blind man part, he develops an aura around him with which he operates more than the expressions on his face or eyes. Easily one of the actor’s best films and none of his earlier performances come close to the extraordinary ease he brings to his role in this one. Radhika Apte is a smart actor, she gets the tone of the film right and beautifully complements the slightly whimsical nature of the film; with her wide-eyed performance she brings a unique charm into this ominous narrative. Manav Vijj as a police officer is superb too. Now these were great performances, let us know discuss some Genius, I mean, Tabu. For the umpteenth time, Tabu mesmerizes the audience by casting an unbreakable spell on us, from the moment we set eyes on her. She plays Simi, an aspiring actress who is married to a yesteryear star. Her character is a constant supply of evilly casual acts that provide bouts of pure shock. It is practically impossible to fathom the remote possibility of any other actor playing this role with such satanic grace. Tabu, yet again, stamps her presence as the stalwart of acting.
Andhadhun is an excellent film, which closely flirts with the possibility of turning out to be a great thriller but there is a considerable dip in the enthrolling excitement in the last act of the film, as there is a conspicuous dearth of fresh ideas and the last act of the film seems like it belongs to a different film, with blackmailing and double-crossing. Suddenly, the cunning tools of blackmailing and double-crossing do not seem interesting enough in a film that is, for the most part, packed with sinister ideas. The screenplay gets blurry, one loses track of the individual motives of these characters and the scenes have a feeling of being staged, as opposed to developing organically.
If Sriram Raghavan at his best, can produce this level of brilliance, we have found a filmmaker who promises us gritty, breathtaking thrillers and blind us to the mediocrity around. Andhadhun is an irresistible cocktail of striking performances, fantastical filmmaking and loads of thrilling moments. The taste does linger on.