In Sriram Raghavan’s upcoming thriller Andhadhun, a blind pianist (Ayushmann Khurrana) ends up as the only witness of a murder in an upscale apartment in Pune. “Tune murder dekha?” a policeman asks him in the trailer for the October 5 release. “Sir, main kaise dekh sakta hoon,” replies Khurrana’s character, drawing attention to what should have been obvious. The policeman’s question, of course, isn’t entirely unfounded.
Also starring Tabu, Radhika Apte and Anil Dhawan, Andhadhun will be released on October 5. It is not surprising that a blind character in a crime thriller is being viewed with such suspicion. Thanks to Hindi filmmakers, blind men (and they are always men) in suspense thrillers have mostly harboured devious intentions. Be it Naseeruddin Shah’s evil businessman Jindal in Rajiv Rai’s Mohra (1994) or the three robbers on hire in Vipul Amrutlal Shah’s 2002 heist drama Aankhen, blind men have been hard to trust.
As Satish Kaushik’s thriller Vaada (2005), a remake of K Subhash’s Tamil film Sabash (2000), shows, filmmakers have even made characters fake their blindness in order to achieve their darker ambitions.
In Vaada, Arjun Rampal’s Rahul Verma pretends to be blind in order to test his wife Pooja’s infidelity. He even befriends Pooja’s ex-boyfriend Karan (Zayed Khan) and invites him home. When Pooja (Amisha Patel) learns of her husband’s twisted intentions, she commits suicide. But even that doesn’t stop Rahul from discontinuing his charade. He portrays Pooja’s suicide as murder and frames Karan for it – all the while pretending to be blind.
There is another category of blind characters that has been a favourite with filmmakers: the good blind man gone rogue.
In RK Nayyar’s Qatl (1986), Sanjeev Kumar’s Rakesh, a successful actor, becomes blind in a freak accident after a chandelier falls on him. The accident would have injured his wife Rohini (Sarika) if Rakesh hadn’t pushed her in the nick of time.
Rakesh is just about coming to terms with the loss of vision when he discovers that Rohini is cheating on him with his best friend Ranjit (Marc Zuber). This is when he really feels wronged by his fate.
Instead of confronting Rohini and Ranjit about their relationship, Rakesh slowly and cleverly prepares to murder Rohini and frame Ranjit. It is revenge that he seeks, but he also just wants to prove that, despite being blind, he can do it perfectly.
Rakesh’s preparations include using the senses of touch, smell and sound. After months of practice, he manages to murder his wife when she goes to meet Ranjit at his apartment.
Rakesh knows that thanks to his blindness, he would never be a suspect in the case. This is also what drives most filmmakers to use blind characters in their suspense thrillers. The argument seems to be: how can you accuse a man of committing a crime when he cannot see anything?
Hrithik Roshan’s character Rohan in Sanjay Gupta’s 2017 thriller Kaabil follows closely in Rakesh’s footsteps. Rohan is a blind dubbing artiste who marries Supriya (Yami Gautam), who is also blind. Soon after their wedding, Supriya is gangraped twice by a local politician’s brother Amit (Rohit Roy) and his friend. Supriya commits suicide.
A shattered Rohan puts into place an elaborate scheme to murder the two rapists and their benefactor. As the title suggests, Rohan attempts to dispel the notion that he is disabled and hence cannot do much.
Unlike Qatl, Rohan keeps the police commissioner (Narendra Jha) informed about his vendetta. Rohan even challenges the commissioner to try and pin the blame for the three murders that he is about to commit on him, a blind man. “You’ll be stunned enough to not be able to say anything,” Rohan tells the commissioner. “Most importantly, you’ll understand what’s happening but you won’t be able to explain it to anyone.”
Like Rakesh in Qatl, Rohan too executes his enemies by using his ability to judge the space around him through sound, smell and touch. Rohan is gifted with another skill. The dubbing artist can mimic any voice he has heard, and he puts this ability to good use.
Both Qatl and Kaabil view their differently abled leads with sympathy. Qatl features a remarkable court sequence in which a judge (Saeed Jaffrey), unable to believe that a blind man could have committed the crime, makes Rakesh re-enact the events. Rakesh’s punishment isn’t as severe as it could have been had he not been blind. He is seen as a man who is wronged and brilliantly gifted.
Rohan too is never arrested for the crimes he has committed, but that’s also because he cleverly ensures that the only witness who could possibly testify against him is also a blind man. In both these films, the blind man’s bluff works just just fine in the end.