There are a few films that you should watch only for the director. Sriram Raghavan is one such film-maker in Bollywood who earns that distinction for himself. He may not churn out movies every year like many of his peers. But when he does, even his weaker films, say an Agent Vinod, become a subject of dissection for film enthusiasts, while his better ones earn the cult status. So it is with great expectations that I came into the screening to watch his recent attempt to bedazzle our minds, AndhaDhun starring Ayushmann Khurrana, Radhika Apte and Tabu. Thankfully, Raghavan's terrific story sense and ability to make us laugh at the unlikeliest of situations are intact nearly throughout.
To talk about the plot of the film would do injustice to AndhaDhun, because we cannot venture into discussing the premise without ruining the surprises. In fact, one of the biggest twists of AndhaDhun comes within 15 minutes of the film and it has to do with Aakash (Ayushmann Khurrana). He is a blind pianist whose musical talents is par excellence and it is his abilities that endear him to Sophie (Radhika Apte), a girl who hits him accidentally with her scooter one day and then offers him a job at her cafe playing the piano, before falling for him. AndhaDhun Song Naina Da Kya Kasoor: Ayushmann Khurrana and Radhika Apte's Chemistry Will Make Your Weekend Romantic!
But AndhaDhun is not a romantic movie or about music, even though the piano interludes play a big deal in enhancing every scene. It is about a murder scene that Aakash accidentally comes across that involves a faded movie star Pramod Sinha (Anil Dhawan), his gold-digger second wife Simi (Tabu) and her lover (Manav Vij).
Like his best film, Johnny Gaddaar, Sriram Raghavan gives out clues on how AndhaDhun would end through the opening sequence involving a blind hare, a cabbage patch and a farmer looking to shoot him dead (Raghavan must be a Peter Rabbit fan). The first half of AndhaDhun is terrific, no two words about it. The writing is sharp, the black humour works every time and some of the twists give us a jolt. Raghavan and his set of writers (Arijit Biswas, Pooja Ladha Surti and Yogesh Chandekar) seamlessly introduce us to Aakash and the bunch of characters that later turn his life topsy-turvy. The murder setup is easily the most fantastic scene I have seen in Hindi cinema this year, with the right amount of tension and humour. Even the scenes after that right till the confrontation sequence between Aakash and Simi near the interval will keep you on the edge of your seats. Correct me if I am wrong, but this could be Sriram Raghavan's funniest film to date. Not in Housefull kind of way but more in how the Coen Brothers made Burn After Reading. AndhaDhun First Reviews OUT: Ayushmann Khurrana's Thriller is Terrific and Highly Recommended by Fans and Celebs!
The use of animals as motifs, cat for Aakash, bird for Sophie and a crab for, okay, that I will leave undiscussed here. Also his love for Hindi cinema of the yore (do check out an edited piano sequence played during the end) and movies as a whole (No Mr Raghavan, I didn't miss that Psycho tribute!).
AndhaDhun's second half, unfortunately, doesn't have the same impact. Some of Raghavan's quirks are missing here. The sequences feel stretched and the thread involving Zakir Hussain's creepy doctor isn't as effective, considering it takes up most of the chunks in the second half. Things also become very predictable in how narratives are tied up. Also, some of the elements feel similar to another black comedy, Irrfan Khan's Blackmail.
Watch the trailer of AndhaDhun here -
While the second half was underwhelming, considering Raghavan's high standards of story-telling, AndhaDhun is consistent in other aspects, especially technically. KU Mohanan (with help of Rajeev Ravi) smartly shuffles between still frames and Steadicam to create some wonderful shots. The background score is another plus. And of course, there is….
Ayushmann Khurrana's love for taking offbeat roles has managed to create a niche for himself in Bollywood. Though I always felt that despite the quirkiness of his characters, Ayushmann's performances remain the same. With AndhaDhun, though, I have to say that this is the most fascinating performance of his since Vicky Donor. There is a sense of mystery in his character that is maintained throughout. He has taken real efforts to get the mannerisms of playing blind right, as well as playing the piano right. This could be his most defining performance till date.
The best thing I could say about Ayushmann's act that he manages to match the histrionics of terrific Tabu. The National award winner is on a roll, revelling in the various shades of grey in her role. As the sultry, cunning woman who ends up committing more crimes just to cover one, Tabu reminds you there is a lot more to explore about her acting abilities.
Radhika Apte, however, ends up with the weakest role among all the main characters in the film. Playing the obligatory love interest, she is often relegated to the sidelines when the main premise kicks in. Nothing wrong with her performance, though.
In a surprising comeback, Anil Dhawan manages to elicit chuckles, while also bring a pained nuance as the former superstar stuck in the memories of his heydays. Manav Vij as Simi's married lover is excellent. Zakir Hussain and Ashwini Kalsekar lend the right support.
- Ayushmann and Tabu
- Sriram Raghavan's direction
- The black humour and twists
- The writing in the first half
- Technically it looks good
- The second half lacks punch
- Radhika's character
AndhaDhun is a riveting thriller laced with enough black humour and fabulous performances. It will be a treat for movie buffs who are fans of Coen Brothers and Shane Black. Just wish the movie had a tighter second half which would have made this easily Sriram Raghavan's best work to date, an honour that stays with Johnny Gaddaar.