Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Radhika Apte, Tabu
Director: Sriram Raghavan
Rating: 4 Moons
I can't believe Bollywood has churned out such a cracker of a thriller that's deliciously dark and sinister but the treatment is so nonchalant that it's deeply disturbing yet hilarious. There are four heroes of Andhadhun. Arijit Biswas, Yogesh Chandekar, Sriram Raghavan and Pooja Ladha Surti who have taken the French short film The Piano Tuner to Pune and woven such a clever script around it.
Akash is a blind pianist who incidentally "sees" the murder of one of his admirers, Pramod Sinha (Anil Dhawan) as he invites Akash for a private performance for his wife Simi (Tabu) on their wedding anniversary. It leads to a bunch of amazingly written sequences never seen before in Hindi films. The film becomes dark and edgy and uncomfortable, yet its casual tone keeps the laughs coming. It's like Nanette, the one hour special by Hanna Gadsby on Netflix that creates tension and keeps releasing it too.
You can't help but applaud a cheating wife scheme her husband's murder with her boyfriend, packing his dead body in a suitcase, breaking his fingers because the ring wouldn't come out and keeping her calm, creating a facade of a loving relationship with her husband to the blind pianist who can be used as a witness in favour. It's one of the best scenes in the film. Or how a tough cop, played by (Manav Vij) is chicken shit in front of his wife (Ashwini Kalsekar), not in one of those stupid WhatsApp forwards way, but in a genuinely funny way.
One of the clever suspense thriller tropes is to give a lot of information to viewers and keep that away from the characters. Viewers feel in control and engaged. They enjoy the absurdity of the situation and that's exactly what Sriram does in Andhadhun. Since we know the culprit in this whodunit, the humor becomes intrinsic, situational and hence genuine. It's like sitting on the edge of your seat but laughing nervously in between.
Sriram films are unique. His thrillers don't depend on jarring, thumping background score but use old Hindi film songs that make them even more interesting. Be it the Charlie Chaplin sounds in one of the fight sequences of Agent Vinod or be it old Anil Dhawan songs who plays an important role in the film.
It's clever casting. Anil Dhawan is an old Hindi film hero who is reveling in his past glory by rewatching his films. He might be playing Pramod in the film but his real movie posters Chetna, Darwaaza and Honeymoon, can be found around his living room walls.
His wife (Tabu) is cleverly called Simi (a subtle hint we wonder at Simi Girewal of Karz?). She is even called Lady Macbeth in the film, a reference to her role in Maqbool.
She is horny, wicked and ruthlessly casual about it. She gives us subtle insights into her husband's performance in bed as she observes crabs as an aphrodisiac and sexily cooks it in the dish. Tabu has played Simi so well that my most enduring memory of the film is her and her scheming ways. She shows a range of emotions from calm, composed to cluelessly baffled to mean and manipulative. She is the heart and soul of the film.
And then there is Ayushmann Khurana. There is a difference between playing a blind man and being one. He plays them both so well, differentiating both his acts with utmost maturity. Unlike the French short film, here there are no internal monologues yet he delivers Akash's dilemma effectively. He involves you so well with Akash that you start playing with him as he sees and chooses not to see. It's a very interesting premise and Ayushmann's performance makes it more enticing.
Radhika Apte is brilliant as always but she doesn't have much to play with. She is underutilized in the film.
But the real heros of Andhadhun are its writers. The plot, the screenplay, the lines, everything is super slick. Even the second half of the film is tight and well-paced. Though three new characters are introduced in the second half, but soon enough they become a part of the narrative. The lines are funny too. References to PT Usha and The Nation Wants to Know break the tension at appropriate times.
Overall Andhadhun is dark and delicious. And the last shot makes it a class apart! Watch it. I highly recommend it.