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No shades of grey

Saturday, October 06, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

Andhadhun
Director:
Sriram Raghavan
Cast: Tabu, Ayushmann Khurrana, Radhika Apte, Anil Dhawan and others
Rating: * * * *

Sriram Raghavan's films throw their guileless protagonists into stormy waters, and catches them getting out transformed, their innocence tarnished forever. 'Andhadun' is his best so far ('Agent Vinod' being a misstep), inspired by Oliver Trennier's French short film 'L'Accordeur' (for which credit is duly given), and dedicated to once popular Doordarshan programmes 'Chhayageet' and 'Chitrahaar'.

The real surprise is the return of 1970s star Anil Dhawan (who disappeared inexplicably from movie scene), playing a former star, Pramod Sinha, so there are posters, clips and songs from the movies Dhawan starred in – the most memorable being 'Teri galiyon mein na rakhengen kadam' from 'Hawas' (1974).

The protagonist Akash (Ayushmann Khurrana) is a blind pianist, who, while working on a tune for a competition in London, finds employment in a restaurant run by Sophie (Radhika Apte), where he meets Sinha. The star, flattered by his films' tunes that Akash plays, invites him to his home to surprise his much younger wife Simi (Tabu) on their wedding anniversary.

Akash's life goes haywire after that visit, and he gets embroiled in the desperate plots of Simi and her lover, a cop Manohar (Manav Vij). Simi is the perfect femme fatale – cool in a crisis and able to think on her feet.

Till mid-point Raghavan sets up a nostalgia-laden crime thriller, in which it is impossible to predict what happens next. Once other characters like an evil doctor and his two cohorts, plus the cop's wife jump into the fray, the film turns about greed and cruelty, and the script becomes too schematic.

When the film stayed on the problems Akash inadvertently gets into, it was enjoyable; later as it ties itself up into knots and looks for macabre ways to dispatch various characters, it loses some of its wicked charm, and also the emotional empathy built up for Akash.

Still with KU Mohanan's moody visuals, Pooja Ladha Surti's snappy editing (she is also one of the writers), and Amit Trivedi's retro music, Raghavan keeps a grip on the narrative, dots all I's and crosses all T's, so the viewer leaves the hall knowing what happened to the rabbit that appears in the beginning.

Tabu in her “Lady Macbeth” (as a character refers to her) avatar has been perfectly cast – one can't think of anyone else who could have played this part with such razor edge balance. Ayushmann Khurrana's pick of roles has been remarkable, and his Akash character is a wonderful addition to his filmography.

Sriram Raghavan plays with the audience's perception like his piano-playing protagonist; as his characters jump from black to white and back. A film this capricious can only be a joy to watch.

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