The trailer for Sriram Raghavan’s AndhaDhun has notched up more than 10 million views in a little over a day, indicating that the Sriram Raghavan cult might not be a cult anymore. The director has slowly and steadily built a reputation for films that are a potent cocktail of Hitchcock-ian suspense, ’70s pulp and some good ol’ Bollywood hamming.
The AndhaDhun trailer had all of that but there was a little surprise for die-hard Bollywood fans too. Yesteryear actor Anil Dhawan in a cartoonish attire, with a gun in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other, yelling SURPRISE!
This is not the first time, Raghavan is working with an actor he grew up admiring. In Johnny Gaddar, Raghavan got Dharmendra to play a significant part where he’s made to snarl “you son of a beach!” Dhawan, whose face might be familiar to most of us through his brother David Dhawan films of the 90s, has had a following since his debut in early 70s. Starring alongside Shatrughan Sinha and Rehana Sultana, Dhawan began his Bollywood journey with 1970’s Chetna.
Being active as one of the main leads till about the mid 1970s, Dhawan found a new lease of stardom through his collaboration with the Ramsays. Starring in films like Darwaza and Purani Haveli, Dhawan became a massive face and name in the B-horror movies with many more conspicuous titles like Khooni Panja and Aakhri Cheekh.
By around the 1990s, Dhawan became the chhote chacha mainstay in his brother David Dhawan movies. Whether it was Hero No. 1 or Jodi No. 1… or even the absolutely terrible-but-successful Hogi Pyaar Ki Jeet – Dhawan had become the choice for stock characters by now. And his image as a patriarch with grey streaks, was bolstered even further with the help of Asha Parekh’s Kora Kagaz. Playing father to Salil Ankola and father-in-law to Renuka Shahane – Dhawan became Indian TV’s Babuji even before Alok Nath was a thing.
With his latest film, Raghavan has managed to call back the pulp element of the late 70s and 80s by casting Dhawan. And to pair him with the always unpredictable (in a good way, of course) Tabu, makes the choice all the more interesting. Dhawan’s character seems to be modelled on the usual sleazebag marrying a significantly younger woman – earlier played by Vinay Pathak (in Badlapur), Zakir Hussain (in Johnny Gaddar). After so many years of forgettable roles, this supporting part might just be what resuscitates Dhawan’s acting career.