Andhadhun is a one of those Bollywood rarities which leaves you feeling uncomfortable with the suspense but fascinated with the story at the same time. With Ayushmann Khurrana playing the ambitious (pretending to be) blind protagonist, Akash, the film takes unexpected turns and twists keeping you at the edge of your seat. Sriram Raghavan takes inspiration for his story from a French short film, L’Accordeur or The Piano Tuner (2010), by Olivier Treiner. What shined out the most to me about Andhadhun was the antagonist, Simi, flawlessly played by Tabu. When I say flawless I mean Tabu was very convincingly able to portray a character full of flaws, and with no moral conscience or values whatsoever.
It is quite difficult to talk about a thriller movie without giving out too much. Andhadhun starts with depicting the life of Akash who is shown to be a blind but a promising pianist. Whether he is blind or not is unravelled by the movie in its own nerve-wracking way. Akash unwillingly becomes a witness in the scandalous murder of Pramod Sinha, husband of an unfaithful wife. His life changes from thereon as a very determined Simi is ready to wipe out any evidence or witness of the crime in any way possible.
She is a deviant woman – a woman who does not conform to the morals and values constructed by the society.
Tabu’s character is depicted as confident yet desperate, vulnerable yet deceitful. In her mind she just happens to have herself in a situation where her husband had to be murdered. She wants to live the life she wants and she chooses not to put up with anyone causing inconvenience to her.
This is not to say that she was a lady with an absolutely evil plan or motive. This is generally a character trait with many other antagonists in Bollywood movies. She seems to be a very real and believable character, who has a simple reason for doing what she does. In short, she is a deviant woman – a woman who does not conform to the morals and values constructed by the society.
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She unapologetically deviates from any sorts of expectation one has from a woman, and in fact the story line. The movie portrays Simi as a femme fatale, without overly sexualising her. She constantly provides the story with momentum keeping the audience thrilled.
There is definitely a need of balance in gender equality in the villains’ world and a n=eed of female villains who are more than just the usual femme fatale.
For women, conformity to societal morals and norms of femininity, set especially for them, are appreciated so that they stay in a position of inferiority. A woman not conforming to such norms are considered deviant. However the degree of conformity to the norms of masculinity set for men is more flexible. They are required to adhere to a universal set of norms to not offend the human morals. This is what makes Tabu’s character more interesting for me. Her antagonism is never limited by her gender.
The female lead of the movie, Radhika Apte’s Sophie is captivated by his skills at the piano. She first meets Akash ‘by accident’, crashing her scooter into him while he was crossing the road. After dropping him to his home, she tells Akash, “See you”, then correcting herself to “Or…I’ll see you”. Chhaya Kadam’s Sakhu, as a woman of greed, and Ashwini Kalsekar’s Rasika, as a victim of infidelity, along with Sophie, provide the thriller with unexpected comic reliefs and keep the grim narrative of Akash’s life going.
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Needless to say, the women in this film have well-written, strongly played characters. They contribute to the story and none of them were included for the sake of ‘male gaze’. This in itself is no minor feat for a mainstream Hindi film. Bollywood has so many iconic villains who can be named in an instance, such as Gabbar, Mogambo, Kaancha, and many more. But there are only a handful of female villains who became iconic in the best sense of the word. There is definitely a need of balance in gender equality in the villains’ world and a need of female villains who are more than just the usual femme fatale. Tabu’s character brings us a promise of stronger female villains with the potential of being iconic in the same way.
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