Sriram Raghavan is coming to a theatre near you, this Friday. The maker of twisted noirs burst onto the scene with the cult classic, Ek Hasina Thi in 2004, and reinvigorated Saif Ali Khan’s career in a post-Dil Chahta Hai world. Where Khan was sentenced to play the sweet, urban bumbling idiot in films like Kal Ho Naa Ho and Hum Tum, Raghavan gave Khan (arguably) his sexiest role till date.
Now with this week’s AndhaDhun – starring Ayushmann Khurrana, Radhika Apte, Tabu and Anil Dhawan – Raghavan is all set to play mind games with his audience. Set around a blind piano player, who is a key witness in a murder, the film’s trailer made many promises.
Here are a few Sriram Raghavan-isms you shouldn’t forget before you go into watch his next film:
1. Dark/perverse sense of humour
That scene in Johnny Gaddar when Govind Namdeo declares he is ‘pure… non-vegetarian’ or the sequence in Badlapur, where Varun Dhawan forces Radhika Apte to scream/moan implying to her on-screen husband, Vinay Pathak, that they were having sex. Raghavan revels in unmasking the pettiest, ugliest version of his characters. Badlapur’s Varun Dhawan is a man thirsty for revenge, and he’s seeking it through the most petty ways by ‘bedding’ the wife of the man complicit in killing his own wife.
2. Old man married to someone significantly younger
This happens to be a repeated trope in Raghavan’s films where Zakir Hussain is married to a much-younger Rimi Sen. Vinay Pathak is married to Radhika Apte in Badlapur, and as the trailer of AndhaDhun suggests Anil Dhawan, playing a retired actor from the 70s, is married to an effervescent Tabu.
3. Colourful supporting characters
Raghavan LOVES supporting parts, more than his leads perhaps. Whether it is the elder-inmate Pratima Kazmi in Ek Hasina Thi, the cacophonic Ashwini Kaleskar in Johnny Gaddar, or even the ridiculous ensemble in Agent Vinod that sees Gulshan Grover play a ‘bored’ ISI chief – these smaller parts are on an even ground with the film’s lead characters. And they leave a similar kind of impact.
The only way to keep the audience hooked through the film’s crisp running-times (except Badlapur), is to introduce many red-herrings and keep them on their toes. Whether it is the shifting loyalties in Ek Hasina Thi between Saif and Urmila, the consecutive murders in Johnny Gaddar, the trust-deficit between the characters of Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor in Agent Vinod – it’s all a set-up for the big finale. If you think you have a clue, you don’t.
5. Twist In The Tale
The twists at the end of Raghavan’s films became a signature element as soon as Urmila Matondkar marooned her former-lover in a cave full of rats. So much so that Raghavan’s last film (Badlapur) came with a warning – don’t miss the beginning, don’t reveal the end. Whether it is Johnny Gaddar’s last scene or even the abrupt, high-and-dry climax of Badlapur, they all work. One comes with the ancient moral that crime never pays in the end, while the other preaches that carefully harboured vengeance over a decade, solves nothing.
Sriram Raghavan is a rockstar filmmaker. And if you still haven’t got on the hype train for AndhaDhun, we would suggest that you quickly buy tickets.