‘Andhadhun’: Beware the Blind Man ☆☆☆☆☆

This 2018 Indian black comedy “Andhadhun.” which in Hindi means, according to Wikipedia, “The Blind Melody,” is too good a thriller not to pique some Hollywood hack. Surely it will be redone in English before a decade passes, but don’t wait for that. This Viacom18 Motion Pictures and Matchbox Pictures production stars the legendary actress Tabu as the kind of trophy wife you hate as she matches wits with a supposedly blind piano player.

To understand director Sriram Raghavan’s inspiration, you must first watch the 2010 13-minute psychological French short “L’Accordeur” (“The Piano Tuner”) by director/writer Olivier Treiner. Treiner’s short won the Audience Award at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival and the César Award for Best Short Film. While Treiner presents a piano player whose competitive failure gave way to depression and then to the artifice of being a blind piano tuner because his “blindness” heightens his other senses, Raghavan (who co-wrote with Arijit Biswas, Pooja Ladha Surti, Yogesh Chandekar and Hemanth Rao) gives us the rest of the story.

In “Andhadhun,” instead of a piano tuner, Akash (singer/actor Ayushmann Khurrana) is a handsome blind piano player and composer who pretends to be blind. He lives alone in a sunny upstairs apartment with his cat, composing music while preparing for a piano competition in London. One of his neighbors, a young boy isn’t completely convince he is blind and daily attempts to strip away Akash’s pretense. Crossing a road one day, Akash is knocked down by Sophie (Radhika Apte) who then arranges for Akash to play piano at her father’s diner. We learn that Akash wasn’t born blind; a cricket ball struck him when he was 14 and damaged the optic nerve.

His pretense seem harmless enough. Akash sings and entertains enough that this movie might be considered a murder with music. Of course, Sophie falls in love with Akash and it almost seems as if this movie is just an ordinary musical love story destined for a happy ending once Akash comes clean with his deceptions.

However, Akash attracts the attention of a once-famous and fabulously popular actor, Pramod Sinha (Anil Dhawan). Indian film fans will recognize the 68-year-old Dhawan as a 1970s actor (“Chetna”). His character is married to a younger woman (Tabu is now 47), and he remains giddily in love. He arranges for a surprise on his wedding anniversary: “Come to my house tomorrow for a private concert. I’ll be there along with my wife. She loves the actor Rajesh Khanna. Play his numbers. She’ll be happy. Here. Here’s my address. And an advance. You’ll get more later. One o’clock. “

But both he and Akash are the ones surprised. For Sinha, who arrives first, the results are fatal. For Akash, his safety depends upon keeping up the pretense of blindness as he becomes the only witness of the dead Sinha’s body being stuffed into a suitcase.

Akash isn’t aware of the identify of Simi’s partner in crime until he attempts to report the murder and discovers that Simi’s lover, Manohar (Manav Vij), is the police inspector in charge of the local police station.

Simi and Manohar have other loose ends. The neighbor, Mrs. D’Sah witnessed Manohar entering Simi and Sinha’s apartment. Simi murders her in front of the horrified but a determined Akash keeps up his pretense. Yet even a blind man could be a valuable witness.  Simi and Manohar’s separate attempts to manage the details of the murder lead to further complications and deaths.

The movie actually begins with a rabbit in a cabbage patch and an angry farmer. You might mistakenly think you’ve wandered into a Bollywood version of “Peter Rabbit,” but the rabbit and the farmer will be tied back into the plot near the end. The ending will not neatly tie up all threads of this wild plot. This is not a whodunit because that’s clear from the beginning. It’s more a who will survive this wild ride kind of film where all of the characters are of questionable character except perhaps the unlucky in love Sophie. In tone, “Andhadhun” has much in common with the works of Joel and Ethan Coen. Think “Fargo” except in sunnier climes and no happy families in the end.

At the Screen Awards, “Andhadhun” won Best Director (Raghavan), Best Screenplay, Best Editing (Pooja Ladha Surti) and Best Sound Design.

“Andhadhun” was the opening movie for the Los Angeles Indian Film Festival with Tabu in attendance. In Hindi (with English subtitles) and English. “Andhadhun” is currently available on Amazon Prime, Youtube, Google Play and Netflix.

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