Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Tabu, Radhika Apte, Manav Vij, Ashwani Kalsekar, Anil Dhawan, Chaya Kadam. Zakir Hussain
Director: Sriram Raghavan
Rating: * * * ½
Sriram Raghavan may have had middling success thus far with his edge-of-the-seat, twisty, musical thrillers (Johnny Gaddar, Ek Hasina Thi, Agent Vinod, Badlapur) but ‘Andhadhun’ promises much more…it’s more than likely to become a ‘Kahaani’ by itself.
A twisty, darkly humorous thriller, this film under review is as smart as it is entertaining. Inspired by Oliver Trenier’s 2010 French, 14 min short, titled The Piano Tuner, the film opens with a farmer pursuing a rabbit with a double barrel gun and then cuts to a blind pianist, Akash (Ayushmann Khurrana) practicing his craft on a piano. His cover versions of old Bollywood hits sound maestro like. Just when we start to get amazed at this man’s prowess, we become privy to the con he is playing. But the people he comes in contact with are not ‘in’ on the secret. While playing the piano at a piano bar in Pune, courtesy his girlfriend Sophie (Radhika Apte), he meets with ex-superstar Pramod Sinha (Anil Dhawan) who invites him to play old Rajesh Khanna numbers at his surprise wedding anniversary party – one he hopes to throw for his much younger third wife, wannabe actress Simmi (Tabu).
While the convoluted reasoning behind the lead character’s blind fixation is not entirely plausible, we are lured into the story, because of the transitory ease with which the narrative flows. Raghavan’s highly inventive screenplay has the so-called blind pianist witness a murder and because he is not supposed to be sighted, he obviously can’t go to the cops. His one slip-up though costs him plenty – as the illicit paramour, a muscular cop (Manav Vij) tests his veracity and Simmi uses all her guile to lead him to betray himself.
There are some hilarious, breath-taking moments in the film compounded by- Sophie’s distrust; a young neighbourhood kid’s bubbling curiosity; a scamster Doctor’s attempts at illegal organ trade; and a rickshaw driver-lottery seller couple’s avariciousness. It’s a well-designed cadaverous thriller where pretense and make belief get so intertwined that you are hard-pressed to figure out the truth. Raghavan takes things further by throwing yet another loop into the endplay.
The mood and moments here are priceless. Like he did with ‘Johnny Gaddar’ and ‘Badlapur’ more recently, Raghavan’s narrative spiel goes from macabre to funny to outrageous within a span of a few minutes. With Pramod Sinha as one of the primary characters, he recreates the look and feel of 70’s Bollywood – replete with life-size portraits, studied mannerisms and musical riffs from that melodious heyday. Amit Trivedi, Raftaar and Girish Nakodi’s tuneful tributes to nostalgia interspersed with western classical compositions from the greats (Mozart, Beethoven) add soul and gravitas to the highly imaginative plotting here. K U Mohanan’s immersive cinematography and Pooja Ladha Surti’s nifty editing allow for a beguiling immurement. And Ace performances from the entire cast – including Ayushmann Khurrana, Tabu, Radhika Apte, Anil Dhawan, Manav Vij, Ashwini Kalsekar, Chaya Kadam, Zakir Hussain etc. make this derivative thriller a must watch!