“Now you’re looking for the secret. But you won’t find it because of course, you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to work it out. You want to be fooled.”
As one sees the burning corpses/decoys of Magician Angier, these lines, said at the very beginning of the film ‘The Prestige’ comes back haunting. The idea of starting this review with this quote is to remind the audience that a good thriller requires patience to sit through it so that the director can unravel the mystery, in layers. But a great thriller demands attention and devotion, for it wants the audience to get involved in the story. It savours the audience’s awe, their foolery as they frantically try to untangle the mystery. And eventually, when it’s unrevealed, it leaves them amazed. As the curtains come down, the storyteller takes a bow, amidst the roaring applause of the audience, for they have been part of a magnificent and enthralling tale. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Baap Of Noir, is back with vengeance. ‘AndhaDhun’ is the film of the year and the credit goes to its master storyteller – Sriram Raghavan.
It’s really hard to say anything about the story without revealing the major plot points. There is a blind piano player. There are a husband and a wife. There is a murder. And there lies a twist. Well, there are twists in a twist. Oh, hell, it’s so difficult not to reveal anything! Director Sriram Raghavan, who in the past, has given thriller extraordinaire such as ‘Johnny Gaddar’, ‘Ek Haseena Thi’ and ‘Badlapur’ weaves a tale that runs in a breakneck speed and forces the viewer to remain glued to the seat. There are twists in every sequence and some you really don’t see coming until it hits you hard. It’s that good.
Mr Raghavan and his co-writers Arjit Biswas, Pooja Ladha Surti and Yogesh Chandekar craft the characters in a quirky mode and then let them run havoc on screen, a la Coen brothers. A character, irritated about the rigorous inquiries about the veracity of her statement, blurts out – Yeh Kya RamKrishna Mission Hai? A policeman, who is beefed like a bull, yet cowers in fear from his wife and gobbles up badly made Chinese Poha! A man, in the midst of a crime, pleads his co-perpetrators to leave the victim alive, while pushing him to the ground. The blind protagonist’s girlfriend signs off on a courtesy ‘See You’ and instantly regrets saying it and corrects it by saying ‘I’ll See You’. These characters are real, flesh and blood yet they manage to drive the quirk home. Especially the masterstroke of casting Anil Dhawan as a yesteryears superstar and using the footage of his old films. The line between reel and reality gets blurred as he relives his moment of pride and anguish both at the same time, seeing his old films on TV.
Like the vintage wine Chateau d’Yquem, with age, Tabu consistently keeps evolving as an actor, beyond excellence. As the femme fatale of the tale, she explodes on the screen like never before. This is a woman who you really don’t want to cross your paths with. Because she’ll eat, chew and spit your miserable life, down the hole. You want to see more of this woman, who likes to have her crab, first frozen to sleep and then boiled in the scalding hot water. As the movie progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to second guess her next moves. Bold, beautiful and bewitching is the only way to describe this character. And Tabu aces it. Just like that!
Ayushmann Khurrana, shelves his goody two shoes image and veers into the grey. This is a man who can do no wrong. As a man of a dubious ethics, he stumbles upon something that threatens his very existence. In a game of cat and mouse, he becomes the cheese on which both prey and the predator remain fixated. A performance worthy of being called his very best. Equally great are the performances from Raghavan regulars Zakir Khan and Ashwini Kalseker, who in their relatively shorter screen times, prove that a true artist can leave their imprints etched on the viewer, irrespective of how much of screen space they occupy. Manav Vij, as the third but vital cog of the narrative, is efficient and so is Radhika Apte, in a short and sweet avatar. Chaya Kadam as the lottery ticket seller Maushi gives a fabulous performance. The editing is razor sharp and the cinematography is of top notch. Credit goes to Pooja Ladha Surti and K U Mohanan respectively.
Music plays a huge role in the screenplay, thanks to Amit Trivedi and old man Beethoven! The protagonist is a piano player hence every sequence has a background score, led by the piano. The predicament of the characters results in unexpected black humour. A scene where the characters are trying to tidy up a place where a murder has just ‘occurred’ and their effort to hide the dead body plays out like the old Chaplin movies amidst the playful tunes of the piano. The film begins with a tribute to Chitrahaar and Chaya Geet, the vintage film song shows of the good old Doordarshan. And a pivotal character, a yesteryears film star, is shown reminiscing his glory days on YouTube. Characters, bound to a chair, start singing vintage Hindi songs. Raghavan uses music as a motif to increase the tension among the characters, that’s evidently so palpable in nature.
This, by far, is the best film of the year. Go and watch it. And whatever you do, please please please…don’t miss the beginning.
After all, what is life, it depends on the liver!
The Cinemawala Rating: 5/5