‘Andhadhun’ review: A pulse-racing edge-of-the-seat thriller

A still from ‘Andhadhun’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In a recent interview to The Hindu, filmmaker Sriram Raghavan talked about how a long sequence in the first half of Andhadhun is the reason why he made the entire film. Without revealing anything about the seven to eight-minute long scene, I would say that when it comes to Hindi cinema, it is one of the most exquisitely crafted and perfectly realised situations on screen. A gourmet cinema spread, if one can be allowed the similitude. The elaborately scripted details, down to the tiniest of props, expressions and movements; the fabulous, at times Chaplinesque interplay of actors; the play with camera in the defined space; the sharp editing; all set to Amit Trivedi’s lovely four-minute 19-second long piano-based theme. All in all it’s riveting.

The scene, in a way, is also the thematic pivot of the film. About a blind pianist, his girlfriend, a star from yesteryears, his young wife and some dead bodies, Andhadhun is not a whodunnit, whydunnit, howdunnit. Secrets are not kept away from the audience; they are privy to and almost participative in the crimes and misdemeanours. Yet, not quite. The Indian inheritor of Alfred Hitchcock that Sriram Raghavan truly is, his corpses are pointers to something profound—the human condition. In Andhadhun it’s all about the omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence of wickedness—at times vile and transgressive; mostly matter-of-fact, level-headed and commonplace; and sometimes even charmingly innocent, naive and weirdly blameless. It’s even present in the DNA of the precocious kid next door.

Simultaneously there is the larger moral core--the element of fate signified in a lottery ticket, how crime begets crime, how fate eventually catches up with the criminal. Each of the characters, and in turn the actors, give their own distinct shade to their immorality—from the delicious fun that is a glorious “Lady Macbeth” Tabu to the smart, sharp yet vulnerable musician Ayushmann Khurrana. The two lead the ensemble from the front, with a rooted and rustic Chaya Kadam, a perennially and perfectly perplexed Manav Vij, the hysterical Ashwini Kalsekar and a dour Zakir Hussain bringing up the rear.

In a crackling bit of casting Anil Dhawan is the 70s star who allows Raghavan to indulge in his passion for the old films and songs. ‘Mere pyaase mann ki bahaar’, ‘Ye jeevan hai’, ‘Guzar jaayein din din din’, ‘Teri galiyon mein na rakhenge kadam’, ‘Jai bholenath jai ho prabhu’—these songs mark significant moments in the film. From the acknowledgment of Chhaya Geet and Chitrahaar in the opening credits to the lovely tribute to the piano songs in the end credits—murder, music, pulp and nostalgia make for a potent combination in the hands of Raghavan.

While seemingly giving things away Raghavan is actually always a step ahead of the viewers in the cat and mouse game. He is clever in engineering the unpredictability and the by-the-minute twists and turns of the plot. It’s sheer pandemonium and chaos that rules but one that is carefully charted out in the filmmaker’s own head and script. Even if the madness gets progressively unruly and confusing to deal with in the second half, there appears to be a deliberateness in that too—in letting things run completely out of hand.

All the darkness comes laced with humour. Raghavan takes you to the edge of the seat with the pulse racing, makes you keep guessing even as you are chuckling. Getting outwitted and taken by surprise was never more entertaining. The film completes a perfect arc from where it starts to how it ends. Cabbage, cats and colour red; milestones and rabbits and liver and life all come with a larger meaning attached. Missing the beginning, end and anything in the middle would then severely imperil what could be the most fun you’d have at the movies.

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Printable version | Sep 16, 2021 6:06:48 PM |

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