Blindly tuned to perfection? No this movie is anything but blindly made.
Andhadhun (lit. Blind Tune; Hindi pronunciation: [əndʱaːdʱʊn]) is a 2018 Indian black comedycrimethriller film co-written and directed by Sriram Raghavan. Produced by Viacom18 Motion Pictures and Matchbox Pictures, the film stars Tabu, Ayushmann Khurrana and Radhika Apte and tells the story of a piano player who unwillingly becomes embroiled in the murder of a former film actor. Its script was written by Raghavan, Arijit Biswas, Pooja Ladha Surti, Yogesh Chandekar and Hemanth Rao. The film was edited by Surti, and K. U. Mohanan was its director of photography. Amit Trivedi composed songs for the film while Jaideep Sahni wrote the lyrics. Raftaar and Girish Nakod composed and wrote a song as a guest composer. Hemanth Rao (a friend of Raghavan) suggested in 2013 that he watch L’Accordeur (The Piano Tuner), a 2010 French short film about a blind pianist. Raghavan liked the film, and decided to work on a script based on it.
While I am not the biggest expert on Indian cinema, at least from what I have seen so far, this is quite possibly the best Bollywood movie ever. Keep in mind this is also in alignment with the kind of movies I like and as such, while calling it the best, I am ignoring good films of genres I do not like. While I want to say that Bollywood has its own charm, it is largely full of popcorn movies with little to no substance. They have always been lengthy in run time, had bad plots with no stakes and filled with loud music to the point that each movie just gave me a giant headache. Of course there are some people who like that, and so I had decided that Bollywood was not for me. But, every now and then we would get a great gem of a movie. Whether its art house cinema or neo-noir thrillers like Andhadhun. Aamir Khan is quite famous for making movies that are the middle ground between being masterpieces and popular garbage. But even his movies are hit or a miss with me. The problem is, over the years, people started making wrote stories with no plot and constantly pushing rich established actors in every movie. The industry became controlled by a handful of people and somewhere along the line, art disappeared. Movies would only cast big names since they would get people in seats and the actors started half assing their work because people would pay to see them anyway. The public got divided into people that would watch a crap movie just for the sake of watching a movie and those that completely tuned out Bollywood. While western media was broadcast on television, it did not have a big audience in India. Then over the last few years, and more so with the advent of online streaming, Hollywood became more and more popular. While India still has a long way to go in terms of releasing Hollywood movies on its shores – after all the country only ever gets big blockbusters, people have indeed started taking notice. That there are better options out there, that you are not limited to watching whatever your nearest cineplex is showing. As the population got more educated, people started drifting away from Bollywood. Dont get me wrong, the movies still make a ton of money. The older actors of the 90s are now slowly being replaced by their kids and the cycle will continue. Bollywood will still churn out pointless shit. But, when a good movie is made, people are drawn to it in significant numbers.
This is best shown with the commercial success of the movie.
Andhadhun was produced on a budget of ₹32 crore (US$4.5 million), and earned ₹2.50 crore (US$350,000) on its first day. The film’s box office increased with positive word of mouth, and it grossed ₹5.10 crore (US$710,000) on its second day. It earned ₹15 crore (US$2.1 million) in its first weekend, and grossed ₹41.05 crore (US$5.7 million) in ten days. The film became profitable before its theatrical release through satellite, music and digital rights. At the end of its six-week theatrical run, Andhadhun earned ₹101 crore (US$14 million) at the box office (mainly from Mumbai). The film also did well internationally, earning ₹10.37 crore (US$1.4 million).
While the movie bombed on its first weekend, word of mouth kept it in cinemas for 4 months. People kept going back to it. And not because there was some attractive lady dancing to lewd lyrics in skimpy clothes, or a muscular guy took off his shirt every 5 minutes. Not because they cast the biggest actor in Bollywood at an exorbitant price, driving up the movie budget. Not because it had pitiful effects that the Indian public thought could finally match those of other countries (looking at you Thugs of Hindostan). But because they made it unlike a Bollywood movie.
While Hollywood has its own share of money making garbage (a la Transformers, any Liam Neeson movie after Taken (though I still watch them all), bad remakes of popular 90s movies, the Fast and the Furious series, any movie with disaster porn). They still do make better movies than Bollywood. I have had passionate Indians (dare I say patriots) come up to me and chide me for my dislike of Bollywood. But I dont hate all of it. There are times I am surprised and deeply impressed. A long time favorite of mine is this old movie called A Wednesday. And nothing has come close for me ever since. But enough ramblings.
Andhadhun stars Aayushman Khurana. One of the rising stars in the industry. He has been around for a long time though. In fact he has mild successes with most of the movies he does. Most of his movie often discuss topics not usually brought attention to. More than that, his movies often have a strong narrative with a colorful cast of characters. In short, just with his presence, I have come to expect an interesting movie. As far as his performance in said movies goes, he is flawless. He embodies his characters so well. Never once a moment where he breaks. Never once has he not completely sold his character motivations on screen. Not to mention he is easy on the eyes. Granted his movies are not all great, but he has a good roster to back up his reputation. Here, he stars as the blind Aakash. He is a musician, struggling from the looks of it, pretending to be blind. As an experiment to boost his creativity. He wears milky white contacts and goes about his day in the city as a blind man. But one mini piano concert makes him a witness to a murder and an affair. And what ensues is chaos as he tries to navigate out of the situation. His acting as blind man, or pretending to be blind and then really blind is fantastic. But he is not a hero, so to speak. He is the main character of the movie, but by no means is he a nice guy. He takes advantage of people with his fake blindness. And constantly makes questionable decisions for himself. Yet at the same time he always tries to keep a moral high ground. Khurana plays him to the T. If you watch carefully, you can catch the plot of the movie in his subtle facial cues alone. Yet despite his selfishness and self seeking motivations you cannot help but root for him.
Tabu plays Simi, the latest (as far as we know) wife of bygone actor Pramod Sinha, played by, sorry, but a real bygone actor Anil Dhawan. I actually thought that was a nice touch, since in order to show Pramod Sinha’s earlier work as a young guy, they just used Anil Dhawan’s old movies. No need to cast a separate look like actor or recreate older Indian movies. Simi very clearly married Sinha for his money and connections in the film industry. She flirts with him to maintain the illusion that she is in love with him, but rarely does anything to prove she does. Every time he tries to get romantic with him, she brings his attention back to giving her a big break in Bollywood. While Sinha is enamored by Simi, the movie does not hide that she only married him for his connections. I dont think its a spoiler, since its part of the synopsis. But Simi and her boyfriend kill Sinha. The rest of the movie follows their journey of tying up the lose ends of their crime of passion. While in the beginning Simi comes off as a pretty young thing fooling an older man, as the movie goes along, you cant help but admire her mettle. She refuses to give up even when all odds are against her. While she appears bubbly and shaky while dealing with the murder at first, she soon takes over with heightened energy. In fact her presence of mind and sharpness in cleaning up her crime is commendable. She shines best as a terrible person, dare I say a hit man. Or a hit woman if we are being politically correct. Tabu gave a layered performance as Simi, alternating between innocent and savage and I am in complete awe of her after this movie.
Then we have Manav Vij playing Inspector Manohar Jawanda. He is the Yang to Simi’s Ying. Well sort of. Hes not as capable as her. The movie introduces him as this buff intimidating character. But he soon takes a back seat to Simi. He is not as efficient as her when it comes to cleaning up the mess of his crime. I absolutely loved how underplayed his character is. The fact that he is introduced as menacing man in a position of power, but soon gets easily overpowered by not one but three women in the movie. Albiet the women are also smart and resourceful. But this rarely happens in Indian cinema without making a mockery of the situation. In this case, while it is funny how he is basically like a skinned cat in front of Simi and his wife, they dont portray it as emasculating or something hilarious. But simply him just not being competent as a person.
Ashwini Kaleskar plays his beautiful wife Rasika Jawanda. She absolutely kills it in her role. Rugranshu Chakraborty and Chaya Kadam are well, apt, as Muril and Sakhu. They didnt have a lot to do to be honest. Zakir Hussain as Dr Swami does a fairly good job too. The supporting cast was quite satisfactory. Nothing groundbreaking though. The characters could have been replaced and I would not be able to tell. Radhika Apte plays Sophie. While she is in focus for the movie through the first 15-20 minutes, she is not one of the main characters and her role doesnt not hold much significance to the overall plot.
This movie is fantastic. While the first half gets a little dramatic with more focus on Akash and his relationship with this girl Sophie, it still keeps you interested. Sophie doesnt know that Akash is blind, and so I though this was a nice way to establish his character for the rest of the movie without making it drag on. It also makes him more likable despite him deceiving her. It makes him come off as a – oh he likes her, of course he is going to keep up the ruse to get in her pants. The two are not shown to be in love, so Sophie doesnt form a lasting relationship with him. She moves on by the end of the movie. In fact, its a little strange they bring her back just for the end cause her existence doesnt really affect the movie. Keep an eye out for that. Lets see if you can figure out why. A little hint – there are infact two MacGuffins in the movie. (at least in my opinion)
Andhadhun is an entertaining movie. I was a little bitter I couldnt watch it in the cinema. But it was fun watching it on Netflix none the less. Maybe the success of this movie will prompt more Indian movie makers to go for unique stories than the wrote romantic comedy genre which they dont even make funny. I highly recommend this movie to everyone. Just have enough patience to go through the subtitles. I have also posted an explanation for the ending for those curious.