Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Tabu, Radhika Apte
Director: Sriram Raghavan
A blind singer, absolutely brilliant on piano, has mild manners and electric fingers. He gets the highest tip in the history of the club he plays at. When he is told about it, he says he is saving up so as to have enough money to go to London one day.
This conversation has nothing suspicious or extraordinary but in AndhaDhun, all such run-of-the-mill dialogues make a lot of sense. In fact, that is where AndhaDhun becomes a terrifically taut thriller, with regular people giving the most obvious reactions in the most unexpected ways.
What would you do if you found out that a crooked doctor is adamant on stealing your kidney, or you met an investigating officer who is also the prime suspect of the same case? You’ll be confronted with such bizarre situations every five minutes in AndhaDhun, which flows like a breezy Beethoven composition. It is probably also the kind of film which may take a few years to grow on you. The audacity of director Sriram Raghavan’s vision and the intricacies of the screenplay would come back to you in their complete glory only when you acknowledge his understanding of the story thread.
Like Badlapur, this one also begins with a scene that would be revisited later in the film to give you a jolt, so make sure you don’t miss the beginning. Aakash (Ayushmann Khurrana) is a talented Pune-based pianist, brought brilliantly to life by Amit Trivedi’s striking compositions. He meets quirky Sofi (Radhika Apte), the daughter of a popular club’s owner, and then a yesteryear actor Pramod Sinha (Anil Sinha), who is married to a much younger woman Sumi (Tabu). Aakash’s talent and geniality makes him instantly likeable, but there is a flip side to it. This may also have been happening because Aakash can’t see and thus can’t turn on people even if he knows their secrets. And then somebody gets murdered.
Raghavan has the knack of picking old Hindi film songs and turning them into plot points. He has done this previously in films like Johnny Gaddar, Badlapur and even in Agent Vinod, but this time, he is particularly vocal about it. AndhaDhun bears his stamp from the word go. In this film, he jokes, pities and portrays the worst side of a human being through songs. In an amazingly crafted scene, Khurrana is struggling to get away from his abductors. In desperation, he takes Lord Shiva’s name and one of the captors softens, with an old Bollywood song in the praise of Lord Shiva playing in the background like a commentary on the situation.
There is another scene in which Tabu politely guides a police officer about proper investigation. All this is happening in good faith. It’s a different thing that Tabu is also the case’s prime suspect. Such dark humour is the hallmark of AndhaDhun.
Raghavan has worked really hard in getting AndhaDhun’s look and feel right. Close-up shots have deeply saturated coloured props and long shots have slight yellow tinged mood lighting. Pune’s lush green roads and slightly cold environment also successfully add edginess to this crime thriller. The film also debates on art and the sacrifices it demands. Everything progresses simultaneously and makes you appreciate Raghavan’s understanding of the grey zone we mostly operate in.
The only problem with AndhaDhun is that in aiming for cinematic glory through its characters, in the second half it stretches itself a bit much. It suddenly decides to give its characters a lasting journey, hampering the story’s elasticity and adding repetition to a film that is already 139-minute long.
Though Ayushmann Khurrana holds the narration together, but AndhaDhun also belongs to Tabu. They talk and look normal, but do not act likewise. Full marks to them for following the story’s trajectory just right. A blank-faced Zakir Hussain and lively Anil Dhawan add beautifully to this thriller. Radhika Apte is charming to say the least.
AndhaDhun is a slow burner, the more you invest yourself in it, the more you enjoy it. Also, never treat a piano just as another instrument. You never know, it might be plotting against you.
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