The polls are out. Almost all edifices have unanimously declared ‘Andhadhun’ as the best Hindi language movie of 2018, and for right reason. The film, released in the second half of 2018, brought much aplomb to its makers and also proved to be a successful commercial outing by virtue of an overwhelmingly positive word of mouth and its all praises reviews. Another feather in the cap for its director, the one name in Bollywood for cinema that comes close to noir in India, ‘Andhadhun’ is sharp, witty, and relentless in the way it throws twist after twist at you, all the while keeping the treatment fresh and interesting. The soundtrack is on point, the performances excel, and the script is one of the freshest I have seen in a long time.
With many an ode to the golden days of Bollywood, ‘Andhadhun’ is the kind of movie that happens once in a long while, especially in Bollywood. I, as a viewer, have an especially deep appreciation for films that are commercially and cinematically well-balanced, and deliver an entertaining experience by the time the end credits roll, one that is far from the kind of mind numbing entertainment the Indian audience is accustomed to. I was amazed at the kind of pleasure the regular public drew at the twists the plot had to offer, and if that is a sign of the times to come, there is a glimmer of hope, however faint. An overtly satisfying experience, the film left very little to be desired for me when the credits rolled, except for the ambiguous ending that might have raised some eyebrows. Open to the wildest interpretations, and as precarious as a blind man’s bluff, the ending was the sweetest part of this devilishly twisted fruit of a film for me. Was Akash actually blind by the end of the film? If no, where did he get the means for his retinal transplant? And what of Simi, a vixen played to the T by the ever feisty Tabu? Following a swift breakdown of the plot, we quickly delve into searching the answers for these pining questions.
Easily one of the film’s (and for that matter, any good film’s) strongest suites is the plot. Partly inspired from the 2010 French short film ‘l’Accordeur’ (The Piano Tuner), Raghavan effortlessly infuses the tale of a man pretending to be blind to stimulate his art stuck as the witness of a murder with the elements of a psychological thriller, an effective whodunnit, where despite knowing the killer from the start, mystery lurks at every corner to keep you guessing, and ofcourse, some innately funny dark humour, mined mostly from the comedy of multiple errors the actors find themselves to be a part of.
The film begins with the quote: “What is Life? It depends on the Liver”, and while this may not be an indication of things to come, this will gain a lot more context as we proceed towards the ending, followed by Ayushmann dictating this in voiceover: “It’s a long story. Coffee?”, almost as if talking directly to the viewer. The black quickly subsides to show a man with a rifle, apparently a farmer overlooking a cabbage field, on the lookout for a hare who is blind in one eye, threatening the harvest. The hare prances about the field evading the farmer’s bullet, until finally it rests still in front of a milestone. The farmer, believing that he has a clear shot, takes it, while the screen cuts to black and the title of the film is revealed. In the background, we hear the sound of a car crashing and erupting into flames. Again, this bears no context to the film whence it opens with the introductory scenes, but will be significantly important once we hit the ending.