Movie Critique – Andhadhun

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: A medley of murder, suspense, romance and comedy musical thriller that takes the viewers on an intense journey through the lives of Akash, Sophie and Simi Sinha, when once finished are left with a chill up their spine despite the laughs evoking from their lips. 

Andhadhun (=Bind Tune) is a 2018 Indian Hindi-language black comedy thriller directed by Sriram Raghavan and produced by Matchbox Pictures. Tabu, Ayushmann Khurrana and Radhika Apte are in the lead cast with Anil Dhawan, veteran actor, playing a key role.

Akash (portrayed by Ayushmann Khurrana) is a blind pianist who is in love with Sophie (portrayed by Radhika Apte), who runs a diner, Franco's, along with her father. Sophie gets Akash a job at their diner, where yesteryear actor Pramod Sinha (portrayed by Anil Dhawan), notices him, inviting him into their home to do a special performance for his wife, Simi Sinha (portrayed by Tabu) on their anniversary. And thus starts the journey of murder, suspense, blackmail, illegal organ harvesting business, seduction and heartbreak for Akash.

Inspired by the 2010 French short film, L'Accordeur (The Piano Tuner), about a blind pianist, director Raghavan co-wrote the script with Arijit Biswas, Yogesh Chandekar, Rao and Pooja Ladha Surti. The filmmakers managed to build the suspense in the plot for the audience very well in the trailer.

For his role, Khurrana watched several blind students and how they presented themselves while performing on a piano. He also trained for piano lessons under a Los Angeles based pianist, Akshay Verma. He wore contacts that blinded him 80% and with dark glasses upto 90% for the entire shooting of the film. Khurrana's films are always unique and delivers his best in them. Now we know how he does so.

As for our heroines, Radhika Apte always delivers at a highest note. Her films are more role and goal oriented rather than being cheesy and romantic. It came as no surprise for me to see Apte as Sophie in the film. I am currently watching Netflix series, Sacred Games, where she is a RAW agent, Anjali Mathur. Every role is so distinct and different that you don’t see Apte, but the character.

Tabu, an established actress herself, proves why she still survives in the film world. Per the director, several scenes were not briefed to her prior to being filmed. Tabu did a lot of improvisation to her character as the story progressed. After seeing her performance in the 2014 Indian Hindi-language crime thriller, Haider, I was impressed at how much change she has brought to her acting from the long-ago romantic cheesy girl in the films. She has only asserted herself much more in this film. 

Quite a few references to Tabu's personal and professional life are seen in the film. One of the characters, Dr. Swami (portrayed by Zakir Hussain) keeps referring Tabu's character Simi to Lady Macbeth. Tabu had played Lady Macbeth in the Indian version of the Shakespeare novel, the 2003 Indian Hindi-language film Maqbool (= Accepted). Simi keeps referring to a film, Nurse Radha part 2, that she aspires to act in. It is in reference to the 1970 Indian Hindi-language black and white drama film, Khamoshi (= Silence), supposedly a favorite film of Tabu. 

Anil Dhawan, portrays the role of a yesteryear actor, which he himself is so in real life - a veteran 70s actor. Aptly songs from his past films are shown in the film. Famously remembered for the song "Yeh Jeevan Hai" from the 1972 Hindi comedy family drama Piya Ka Ghar (= My Beloved's Home) along-side Jaya Badhuri Bachchan, this movie certainly gave life to a forgotten actor; and also reminded viewers of some of his films and their melodies, reacquainting to them again.

This also forms Dhawan's come-back film after five years, his last film prior to this being the 2013 Indian Hindi-language film, Himmatwala (= The Brave One). Incidentally the director's first choice for the role of Akshay was Varun Dhawan, nephew of Anil Dhawan.

Director Raghavan and cinematographer K.U. Mohanan show us many scenes from over Akshay's shoulder or from his behind, giving the viewers a front-row seat to what was happening and how Akshay is reacting to it. Raghavan re-used one of the scenes from his earlier film, the 2012 Indian Hindi-language spy thriller Agent Vinod, in this film. 

The backdrop selected for the film - a hotel which is more like an upscale dhaba; a dilapidated forgotten house beside a railway track; a posh neighborhood apartment complex; a cheap neighborhood for a struggling artist - all of it gives the sense of reality to the viewers. But the characters are much more twisted than one can expect them to be. 

The film no wonder went on to win many prestigious awards that year including the Filmfare in which it won Best Film (Critics), Best Actor (Critics), Best Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Background Score; and National Film Awards for Best Hindi Film, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor. 

An Indian film is not complete unless there is a song to dance or hum or sing-along, be it in the background or playback sung for the characters. And so this film's soundtrack consists of six songs (Naina Da Kya Kasoor; Laila Laila; Oh Bhai Re; Woh Ladki; Aapse Milkar Achcha Laga; Andhadhun Title Track), two piano themes and two songs reprised differently. The title track is in fact not in the film at all. It was released as a separate video with interesting picturization - with all the male dancers and Khurrana blind-folded and having dark glasses on. 

Music for the title track was composed by Raftaar and Girish Nakod; and the remaining were composed by Amit Trivedi. Background score composed by Daniel B. George. Lyrics for the songs in the album were penned by Jaideep Sahni, Raftaar and Girish Nakod. 

Playback to the songs were provided by various singers - Amit Trivedi, Raftaar, Ayushmann Khurrana, Arijit Singh, Abhijeet Srivastava, Aakansha Sharma, Shadab Faridi and Altamash Faridi. The two piano tunes titled Andhadhun Theme 01 and Theme 02, certainly played to the moods and emotions of the film as it progressed; evoking a medley of feelings from happiness to sheer terror. 

According to the filmmakers, Naina Da Kya Kasoor playback sung by Amit Trivedi to the piano beats of Khurrana was inspired by the song Mere Sona Re from the 1966 Hindi musical thriller Teesri Manzil (= Third Floor). Overall the tunes in the film give the feeling of listening to an old song from a film in the decades prior to the 80s. Yet I cannot find the similarity between these two songs. Check below and you decide:

Naina Da Kya Kasoor:

And the old one from Teesri Manzil playback Sung by Asha Bhosle and Mohd. Rafi:

The plot is open-ended leaving a lot of interpretation for the viewers. Also a possible segue for a sequel. The ending showing Akash with a walking stick that has a wooden bunny leaves a chill down the viewer's spine if observed closely and connecting some dots from earlier scenes. 

The opening and closing credits are very interesting. In the beginning before the logo of Viacom18 Motion Pictures appears, footages from various films that were produced under that banner are shown - Bhaag Milka Bhaag, Gangs of Wasseypur, Drishyam, Oh My God!, Mary Kom, Special 26, Kahaani, Gabbar is Back, Queen, Pyaar Ka Punchnaama 2, Madras Café, Tanu Weds Manu and Rangoon, among others. 

The logo of Matchbox Pictures resembles a very old matchbox with a train symbol on it. The lady sitting in the train of the window and reading a book is a close resemblance to the scene that introduces the heroine from the 1969 Indian Hindi-language romantic drama Aradhana (= Worship).

If you see the lady with book is retained in the overall logo. In the film Aradhana, Sharmila Tagore is introduced in the opening song "Mere Sapnon Ki Rani" in which she is seen seating at a window in the passing train reading a book.

Opening credits also show dedication to classic Indian music programs that aired on radio and television before the various channels and tv shows took over - Chhaya Geet and Chitrahaar. I have many memories of listening to these programs as a child. One of the special thanks goes to another musical program that has survived over the years of changes and also changed itself to the stress of time - Saregama India Ltd.

The title of the movie appears in three languages prevalent in India - English, Hindi and Urdu - at the beginning of the film. It appears after the last scene of the film as well.

The closing credits also feature a montage of piano-playing actors and actresses from various Hindi films from various decades, as a tribute to Indian music with a note "Thank You for the Music". The montage is again shown with the film's piano theme that we hear all through the movie. 

When I first watched the film it was during my trip back from India in March of this year. You can see one of the sponsors is the client I was working for at that time. Akash eats his meals at the Subway joints. Interestingly enough I didn’t see the mention of the food partner in the film on Netflix. But when I had seen the film on plane I could see it. May be they removed that credits slide for Netflix. 

This film alone is taking me back to memories hidden, cherished; and reintroducing me to some of the old melodies and films that I have forgotten; and reminiscing on others that I love. I can see a lot of posts from me in future stemming from this one, and what a journey it would be. Cant wait to go on that road soon!

A fun but brutal humor giving a macabre sense of the world, seeing it through horror glasses, gives the viewer a jolt at the various immoral ways humans lead their lives, that are so normal and accepted. Crimes committed as easily as one takes breath.

A medley of murder, suspense, romance and comedy musical thriller that takes the viewers on an intense journey through the lives of Akash, Sophie and Simi Sinha, when once finished are left with a chill up their spine despite the laughs evoking from their lips. 

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. The film was released in China as Piano Player in 2019. It was also released in South Korea.

b. There are plans for remakes in Tamil and Telugu, two south Indian languages, based on this film. 

c. Akash practices his music on a Kawai piano in his apartment. The film credits this Japanese company in the beginning of the film. 

d. Note the photo frame on top of Akash's piano. It shows the famous music personalities in Indian film - Kishore Kumar and I believe Lata Mangeshkar.

e. The famous "Goodluck Café" in Pune is shown where Akash is trying to cross the road. 

f. You can see several posters from yesteryear Hindi films in Pramod Sinha's home - 1970 Chetna (= Awareness), 1971 Do Raha (= Two Paths), 1974 Honeymoon, 1978 Darwaza (= Door). And also three fictional films are shown as part of a news cast (one is a film poster in Pramod's home as well) - Spy of Shanghai; Nurse Radha and Boy Next Door.

g. Some of Anil Dhawan's film songs and scenes that are played during the film are: Mere Pyase Mann Ki Bahar from the 1973 film Honeymoon (his character Pramod Sinha is shown watching the clip of that song on his computer); Dil Toh Maane Na from the 1974 film Shaitaan (= devil) - a scene is also watched by Pramod and Simi; Teri Galiyon Mein Na Rakhenge Kadam from 1974 Hindi film Hawas (= Lust) - in fact this song play continuously in the background score as well; Guzar Jaaye Din Din Din from 1972 Annadata - Akash sings this song at Pramod's memorial ceremony; Yeh Jeevan Hai from 1972 Piya Ka Ghar - played on piano by Akash for the memorial ceremony;

h. The painting seen behind Akash when he is playing the piano for Simi in the Sinha's home is Great Wave of Kanagawa by Hokusai.

i. It has been a long time I saw Ashwini Kalsekar on screen. I remember her from the 1990s hit TV series Shanti that used to air on Doordarshan aka DD National channel. 

j. Several songs from old movies become part of the background score for various scenes in the film - Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai from the 1971 Hindi film Kati Patang (= Severed Kite); Jai Bholenath Jai Ho Prabhu from 1974 Hindi film Kunwara Baap.

k. In one scene, Simi (portrayed by Tabu) is shown reading the novel "Anita: The Trophy Wife" by Sujatha - a book that is so similar to Simi's role in the film.

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. If Akash was blind at the time of the accident of Simi, how could he relate how it happened, how could he tell about rabbit, the hunter and all to Sophie in the end?


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