Director: Sriram Raghavan
Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Tabu, Radhika Apte, Anil Dhawan, Zakir Hussain, Ashwini Kalsekar, Manav Vij, Chaya Kadam
Director Sriram Raghavan, a master trickster who made the stunningly cool Johnny Gaddaar (2007) and Ek Hasina Thi (2004), is back with another twisted tale of lust, greed, deceit and bloody hysterical mayhem.
AndhaDhun, based on L’accordeur (The Piano Tuner), a 2010 French short film by Olivier Treiner, is a witty, funny, calculating film that ever so often pauses to recall and shake its booty to the sights and sounds of Bollywood of 1970s, a technicolour world where women wore bells around their bottoms and men let their sideburns grow bushy and long.
Andhadhun in Hindi means someone or something running amuck, indiscriminately, randomly, recklessly. And the film, true to its title, uncoils the story of sex, threats and murders that doesn’t stop yielding smashing surprises mostly at break-neck speed.
The film is very funny, often darkly so, and has really cool music. But it’s the fabulous performances, especially by Ayushmann Khurrana and Tabu, that make Andhadhun a riveting ride.
AndhaDhun, set in Pune, is about a blind piano player, Akash (Ayushmann Khurrana), who dreams of going to London to play the piano. He practices at home and goes out to take tuitions, often having to ward off the attempts of a pesky, annoying child in the colony who seems determined to prove that he is not blind.
There is some story about a cricket ball hitting an optic nerve, but there are also tiny teasers, hints that pique our interest and make us wonder whether Akash is really blind. (For those with sharp eyes, the very first scene is a giveaway.)
On one such day, sweet Sophie (Radhika Apte) rides her cute yellow scooty into him and soon Akash is playing the piano at her father’s bar and restaurant, Franco’s, where an old Bollywood star, Pramod Sinha (Anil Dhawan), notices him, praises him and then offers him an advance. Akash is to be the surprise gift Pramod is planning for his wife Simi (Tabu) on their wedding anniversary. His plan is to have a private piano concert for just the two of them.
When we meet Simi, horny hints are dropped all around her. As she boils a crab, she talks of its aphrodisiacal after-effects.
The plot tightens with one murder, the genius of Raghavan’s controlled story telling and a touch of Coen bothers. It’s just there, as a matter of fact, for us to see and giggle at while wondering what happened.
Raghavan lets us know a bit, but then changes the story. Just as we are figuring that one out, he adds a bit of whimsy and then twists it all.
Thus begins the unravelling — with another murder, another eyewitness, a lurking suspicion that someone else knows… And so it goes, spinning from one bizarre situation to another, andhadhun.
For most part, Andhadhun is set in three places — Akash’s house, Simi’s house and Franco’s — each one with a piano, thus requiring the services of the blind pianist.
Towards the end the movie shifts to a hospital and a storage room where a new set of characters arrive and take charge.
This is the bit that Raghavan and his battery of writers had to think up on their own, without the assistance of the French short film, and this is where Andhadhun gets a bit muddled and feels lost.
There are some rather strange twists and the film drags a bit, loosing its masti and mojo in the godown till it’s out in the open again, where it picks up steam. About 15 minutes could have easily been shaved off the film to keep it tighter.
For most part, though, Andhadhun has a dizzy speed and is high on its own cool quotient.
There are some set pieces in the film — laced with humour and usually around a dead body — that are quite fabulous.
The film’s dialogue are witty and funny and Amit Trivedi’s music is excellent. But it’s the performances which really make the film tick like a time bomb.
Manav Vij, who plays SHO Jawanda, has a brief role and not too many dialogues. Yet he’s excellent.
Tabu’s Simi holds the film together, even as the moral tale keeps tightening its grip and getting ready to sting.
Tabu is always great — instinctive, bang on, and a joy to watch. In AndhaDhun she has a lovely role as well.
Tabu is one of those few actresses who inhabits spaces as if she owns them. She has the ability to align her body and body language with the space she is in and take charge. This confidence is insanely sexy. Insanely.
Ayushmann Khurrana apparently trained for a few months to learn to play the piano. He is deliciously, deviously brilliant.
PS: When you go to watch Andhadhun, stay on for the end credits else you’ll miss the best homage to Bollywood that was once deeply in love with the grand piano.