A young boy (Kabir Sajid) in Sriram Raghavan’s Andhadhun is cunningly witty. Using his charming innocence, he tricks people into giving him money. Until one day, he is left dumbstruck when one of his tricks backfires. Sriram Raghavan’s Andhadhun could very well be a parable of sorts, underlining the message that an equal and opposite reaction awaits all your actions; that final justice is done, no matter what.
But Andhadhun is more than that. It is a pacy drama, with all the thrills, woven together with a gripping plot, even when the suspense has been revealed well in the beginning. There has been a murder, which has been revealed early on, so have the identities of every person remotely connected with it. And there is a lot more to unfold in the next two hours that keep you glued to your seats as the tension builds up.
The film, as credited, is inspired by a French short, L’Accordeur (The Piano Tuner). Raghavan has just picked up the germ of that idea—of a pianist who uses blindness to experiment with his art and ends up embroiled in a murder. The short leaves you pining for more to unfold, and Raghavan does not miss an opportunity to give a spin to that tale. The best part is that the tension in the film is built up without the frills of throbbing, loud background music; the subtle piano sounds nail it.
We are introduced to Akash (Ayushmann Khurrana), a blind pianist who is ready to go to any length to complete that one outstanding composition of his life. Here on, the film hinges on chance encounters. First, he accidentally meets Sophie (Radhika Apte), who offers him an evening job playing piano at her father’s local-upscale restaurant, Franco’s. Then, while at the restaurant, he meets a yesteryear movie star, Pramod Sinha (an excellently cast Anil Dhawan), who is living life relishing the glory of his past— repetitively watching his films and revelling in the songs that featured him. Raghavan’s masterful casting here reflects not just his personal love for Hindi classics, but its use in the best possible way, too. Posters and montages from Dhawan’s films from his days of prime feature in abundance in Andhadhun.
The meeting, however, leads to Akash bagging a private performance at Sinha’s home. He wants to surprise his much younger wife, Simi (Tabu)—a feisty woman with her own quirks. Trying to bag a role in a TV show using her husband’s connections, Simi isn’t the straightest of persons. She can be dramatic and cold, and no one but Tabu could have pulled it off so well. Raghavan’s skill of bringing in references from popular culture works well here when a character refers to Simi as Lady Macbeth, drawing from one of Tabu’s earlier performances.
The absurdity of the plot is laid out, the secrets of the characters are revealed, and from here on it is just the crisp writing (Sriram Raghavan, Arijit Biswas, Pooja Ladha Surti, Yogesh Chandekar, Hemant Rao) and superlative performances of every actor that keep you hooked in anticipation even as you laugh at some cleverly crafted scenes.
The film, opens with the line—‘what is life, it depends on the liver’—and lives up to it till the end. The ‘liver’ can be the person living the life, or the organ, liver. It depends on how you perceive the lines in a film directed by a person whose expertise has often included playing around with dual meanings.
And as you dwell on the nuances, the first half of the film does not give you an opportunity to blink. The second half, driven by chaos, is a lesson in how to connect the dots for that perfect ending that would finally determine whether justice has been served or not.
Director: Sriram Raghavan
Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Tabu, Radhika Apte, Anil Dhawan