AndhaDhun Review

"AndhaDhun" is a thriller masterpiece that ranks among the finest we have ever had in Indian cinema. (photo provided)

Viacom 18 Motion Pictures & Matchbox Pictures present “AndhaDhun”

Produced by: Sanjay Routray

Directed by: Sriram Raghavan

Written by: Sriram Raghavan, Arijit Biswas, Yogesh Chandekar, Arijit Biswas,

Pooja Ladha Surti & Hemant, inspired by the French short story “L’Accordeur” by Olivier Treiner

Music: Amit Trivedi

Starring: Tabu, Ayushmann Khurrana, Radhika Apte, Anil Dhawan, Manav Vij, Ashwini Kalsekar, Zakir Hussain, Gopal Singh, Chhaya Kadam, Kabir Sajid & others

There are directors – and directors. There are those who get worse by the film, have an uneven or even graph and those who improve by the film. Again, there are filmmakers who are intellectual and filmmakers who are intelligent, and in the Hindi film context, these have usually been antonymous.

Yes, Sriram Raghavan is an intelligent director, who is still on a steady upward graph creatively, with just four films, three of them absolutely fabulous, in the last 15 years. Here is where success is not important at all, by which we mean the immediate b-o success. From “Ek Hasina Thi” in 2004, it’s been an upward and zooming graph for this filmmaker, who, however, tasted success only with his last film “Badlapur.”

In its structure, with an unexpected twist now and then, “AndhaDhun” (this is not a Hindi word but a term coined from “Andha” or blind, and “Dhun” or tune) resembles “Johnny Gaddaar” more than any of Raghavan's past films. But today, with audiences evolving, and directors deciding the fate of their films with their work, it’s a cinch that this film will get the success that “Johnny…” never did in the movie halls.

Now for the story: Blind pianist Akash (Ayushmann Khurrana) dreams of improving upon his craft and lives alone. Now, this is a classic case of Hindi cinema where the man does not even seem to have a visiting servant or maid, but the director skips its pragmatic necessity very cleverly, as it could complicate the narration!

A chance meeting with Sophie (Radhika Apte) leads to Akash becoming a singer in her father’s club, Franco’s, where he meets Pramod Sinha (Anil Dhawan), a yesteryear star known for his songs. Sinha is impressed when Akash recognizes him, and calls him over to his house for a private concert the next day, as he wants to surprise his second wife Simi (Tabu) on their anniversary.

Pramod is now loaded as he is into real estate. However, he tells Simi that he has go to Bangalore on work, but will return by evening as it is their day. This is to give her a surprise, but when Akash reaches there at the appointed time of 1 p.m., Simi has no idea of what Pramod had planned. And her husband has been murdered in that very house!

From here, the film goes on a totally breathtaking thrill ride, with nothing and no one being what they seem. From here, the film goes on a totally breathtaking thrill ride, with nothing and no one being what they seem. This time there are so many twists in the tale that the more apt description would be that there is a tale in the twists!

A rickshaw driver (I do not know the actor’s name), a scheming police officer (Manav Vij) who is carrying on with Simi despite a pretty wife (Ashwini Kalsekar) at home, the driver’s wife, maushi, who sells lottery tickets (Chhaya Kadam), a perceptive and wily brat in the society where Akash lives (Kabir Sajid), a doctor trading in kidneys (Zakir Hussain) and other minor characters like Sophie’s dad, Pramod’s daughter Dani from his first wife, and the sub-inspector form the rest of the fascinating cast of characters.

At no point does the viewer know what will happen next, and we on our part must watch every frame diligently and with complete attention so that we do not skip some of the visual shocks, for, with Raghavan, there is no spoon-feeding, and in-your-face is the last thing to which he will resort.

Even the seemingly innocuous and soon-forgotten rabbit hunt, in the beginning, has a decided connection with what happens! Just like the Maruti 800 that was towed away by the Pune traffic police on a normal working day in the opening frames of “Badlapur” (those observant souls who have watched the film will know what I mean!), there are so many things we must notice here!

Technically smart, the film has an effective if slightly loud background music score from Daniel B. George. Amit Trivedi’s songs are not well used in the film, but whatever is heard is interesting and apt.

The script is razor-sharp and absolutely foolproof and watertight. Production designers Snigdha Pankaj and Anita Donald do a realistic job and co-writer-cum-editor Pooja Ladha Surti excels in both departments. K.U. Mohanan’s camerawork complements Raghavan’s vision to perfection with its moods and tones.

Ayushmann Khurrana continues making cracker choices in the way he has handled his career after a great beginning, and some follow-up flops. The natural and non-gimmicky actor puts in a truly impressive turn as the blind singer. The sequence wherein he goes to report a murder to the police, and the cop and later Simi checking whether his blindness is an act or for real, are highlights.

Tabu is fantastic as someone who does not care a whit for anyone and yet understands her limits. Radhika Apte has nothing much to do but does her bit charmingly. From the rest, Kabir Sajid as the inquisitive kid, Manav Vij as the scheming cop and Chhaya Kadam as maushi impress. But it is Anil Dhawan who rocks as the ex-actor – he is a welcome surprise in the few minutes he has. Ashwini Kalsekar scores in the brief role of the cop’s wife, especially when she cajoles her husband to find Pramod’s murderer as it can get him and his team promoted.

This is a thriller masterpiece that ranks among the finest we have ever had in Indian cinema. This time, instead of old Hindi films as in “Johnny Gaddaar,” Raghavan tributes old Hindi film songs of Anil Dhawan and Rajesh Khanna, and the known Indian television programs that would air old hits – “Chhayageet” and “Chitrahaar” – are openly mentioned in the credit-titles.

Miss this one at your own peril. And watch this film with wide-open eyes.

Rating: ****1/2

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