Hailed as the best Indian movie of 2018, Andhadhun, an official adaption of the French short film The Piano Tuner, is an ingeniously entertaining plot that seamlessly alternates between romance and murder, comedy and crime, says Dr S Raghunath, Professor of Strategy, Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bangalore, in an analyses of Sriram Raghavan-directed film starring Ayushman Khurana and Tabu
The gun shot on the cabbage field travels in the general direction of the intruder rabbit in the opening scene of the movie and is shown as inadvertently hitting a car towards the end of the film. Similarly, the man who is ostensibly blind comes to an apartment to play the piano in a birthday celebration of a spouse “by choice” and becomes the hounded victim of witnessing the scene of murder “by chance”.
Combining the concept and function of parallelism to not only form structural linkages between separate units of the movie but also to suggest meaningful relationships that bear on the film’s interpretation, writer-director Sriram Raghavan presents an ingeniously entertaining plot that seamlessly alternates between romance and murder, comedy and crime. The director and his team of scriptwriters use the ingredients of ambition and opportunism, fear and greed, creativity and intimidation to create a heady potion of entertainment. The tag line being – “What is Life? It depends on the liver”.
Cut to the initial scene of the protagonist playing on the piano with the tell tale cat appearing as it does in any murder thriller movie that gives an opening twist that anything might happen. The piano notes establish the atmosphere of the place where the action of the movie is set. The few melancholic, haunting notes rise to a crescendo. The piano notes building up or reflecting dramatic tension. Anticipation deliberately plays on the nerves of the audience as some unknown climax is anticipated, but the moment of release is unsure.
The initial part of the melody corresponds with the camera framing and slowly moving on to capture the protagonist’s intense gaze. The visual pace increases as the camera alternates shots between piano keys, the protagonist and the cat. In the climax of the introductory scene, the camera returns to the protagonist as he stops abruptly while playing the piano. He feels the dialpad on the watch with his fingers to figure out the time. We now realize the melodic piano hook identifies and embodies the protagonist’s character. A high level of tempo, ostinati and drone create tension and the short musical theme for the protagonist’s identity.
Director Sriram Raghavan, music director Amit Trivedi, background score composer Daniel B George and the editor Pooja LadhaSurti apply the precision of editing, in which the musical change aligns tightly with each visual change in emotional and situational content throughout the Andhadhun soundtrack.
The ‘dhun’ (melody) in the Andha (the blind) is captivating as the sound recording and design contribution of Madhu Apsara and Ajay Kumar and the background music of Daniel B George attend quite closely and innovatively to the movie’s sonic design in which the music itself captures not only the mood but also the visual image. The close synergy between sonic and visual pervades all through the movie.
The songs of Andha Dhun also serve as the unifier of both cinematic and narrative content. The musical and cinematic result of the collaboration of the director Sriram Raghavan with music director Amit Trivedi and lyricist Jaideep Sahni demonstrate the development of a narrative / musical aesthetic based on the space occupied by the song syntagms in the script. The songs in the sountrack illustrate the mood of the respective scenes. Rhythmic playfulness is encapsulated in the pace and beat reinforcing the nature of the protagonist’s character and the narrative moment in songs such as ‘naina da kyakasoor’, ‘aap se milkar…’, ‘Laila….laila’ and ‘wo ladki’.
Unlike most murder stories that withhold from the audience a piece of vital evidence until the end of the movie, Andhadhun reveals everything. There is no mystery. The chilling and thrilling moments are when the murderer and the accomplice want to decimate those who have the potential to provide vital evidence on the crime committed. The theme of evil against good, the innocent providing circumstantial evidence against the criminally motivated, provides the narrative drive.
Sriram Raghavan’s characters may exist among the gliteratti and the hoi polloi of society but they are smart and verbal, and get quickly to the point. There are a lot of scenes in the movie where characters come into the scene wanting to do one thing and leave doing something else. They are persuaded to change their mind by the seductive lure to find a short cut to a better life . As in many murder theme movies, the will to succeed translates into some kind of perversion to achieve one’s dream.
We meet a gallery of characters, all played in a laconic key. The lottery ticket seller lady, the auto driver, Dr Swami, Simi, police inspector Manohar all make plans which involve other people, but which are primarily intended to benefit themselves. The dark humor comes from problems stemming from the use of other people without the consideration of them as people with their own goals. Vishal the protagonist and Sophie do not exploit anyone and are mutually considerate and supportive of each other. Our desire to see them all get what they truly and fairly deserve keeps us engaged with the narrative.
By the time the movie ends, all the questions posed by the film’s opening and a few raised along the way are answered. We have complete closure. Everything that was disrupted reaches a new equilibrium. The disrupted lives of Pramod Sinha, Mrs D’Sa the auto driver and Simi end in death and Sophie is back with Vishal.
Dr S Raghunath also conducts The Strategic Management Course in Mdedia & Entertainment at IIM Bangalore for media professionbals