The hardest part about discussing Andhadhun (2018) is the fact that there is no way to explain any aspects of the plot without somewhat ruining it. Any attempt at simplification ends up giving an inaccurate depiction of the story, yet any more than minimal detail will likely spoil at least three of the twists in the plot. Even the innocuous synopsis “a suspenseful crime-thriller revolving around a blind musician getting caught up in a murder”, as simple as that sounds, is riddled with inaccuracies and spoilers only noticeable by those who’ve seen the film. The narrative rollercoaster the film takes is certainly a sight to behold (pun intended), and the film is worth a watch based on that alone.
However, watching it for the narrative alone would ignore the exceptional tonal and generic qualities which also merit acclaim. Whilst the suspense and tension throughout are notably strong, they tend to falter here and there. Much more notable is the film’s quirky and exciting sense of humour, underlying much of its drama without undercutting it. Again, it’s difficult to discuss examples without spoiling several key moments, but the unusual blend of tension and humour pairs perfectly, helping the film be marketable to both comedy and action fans.
Possibly my favourite aspect of the film is its use of music throughout. With the protagonist being a pianist, he spends much of the film doing what pianists tend to. Allowing for a great utilisation of diegetic sound, having much of the film’s score both expressing the tone and tension of a scene, whilst also serving to further the plot. The scene within the apartment of Pramod Sinha (Anil Dwahan), a retired actor who’s hiring of the protagonist Akash (Aushmann Khurrana) to serenade his wife (Tabu) was gripping and acted as the linchpin of the plot. Equally, the succeeding scene in the restaurant is a perfect example of intensity and suspense, and had me glued to the screen. Don’t worry, you’ll know them when you get to them.
One of the best aspects of the film was its exciting and largely unpredictable plot. However, its within this excitement that the film’s biggest blemish exists, as it can often grow somewhat messy and confused at times. In order to remain suspenseful, the film jumps from plot-point to plot-point quickly, eventually leading to a degree of tonal whiplash. Other films such as Memento (2000) and Elephant (2003) feature similarly rapidly shifting and changing plots in order to create suspense. However, these films follow nonlinear narrative structures, and as such the shifts ironically feel less jarring as any unresolved threads are explained later within the film. On the other hand, Anandhun’s single linear narrative means that any plot points or themes that are moved away from are often simply left behind. Furthermore, characters frequently make odd and seemingly illogical decisions which, while moving the plot in unexpected and interesting ways, somewhat make it difficult to suspend disbelief. This can particularly be seen when certain characters repeatedly put their faith and trust into others, when those figures have been nothing but antagonistic to them in the past. I say ‘certain characters’ not to avoid spoilers, but because it happens multiple times with multiple characters, all of which will likely result in a single raised eyebrow from the audience.
In my eyes, the greatest victim of this tonal jumping is the overall abandoning of the romantic plotline between Akash and Sophie (Radhika Apte) that makes up the first third of the film. Unfortunately relegated to just a subplot in the second act, by the end it is nothing but an afterthought. It was the chemistry between the two, and the unique dynamic that the plot establishes, that had me initially invested. As such, it was a great disappointment when I realised a majority of the film would have nothing to do with them, and even more of a disappointment when it became clear the poster had effectively lied to my face. Perhaps this is a matter of personal taste, but I ended the film with a somewhat bitter-sweet feeling; having felt the grief of losing the film it could have been.
Ultimately, Andhadhun is definitely recommended for film fans of all shapes sizes, provided they don’t mind subtitles. Whilst it occasionally falters in terms of pacing and narrative progression, it more than makes up for it with creative cinematography, an astounding soundtrack, and an overall suspenseful and grippingly original plot. And, with the film being available on Netflix, there really is little excuse not to see it.
Review by William Schofield