Avakkai Biriyani

OK, short review : I loved the film. Please watch it.

A story set in a village ? Excellent, rural touch and all that. Hero is an auto driver ? Midas touch, saar. Heroine makes aavakkai oorga ? Er, okay. We don’t really care that much actually, but spicy title. Oh, she is a Brahmin, hmm, do we smell a riot ? Hero’s name is Akbar ? Nuff said. Picture a bloody riot ridden village, with aruvaals and fires, and pointless dance sequences, and that is exactly what Avakkai Biriyani is NOT.

Set in a beautiful village, ruled albeit by an evil but slight comical headman, the rather oddly named Avakkai Biriyani is an elegant love story. Yes, it is far from being perfect, but it’s supposed to be mainsteam Telugu Cinema, for god’s sakes! Yes, it does seem too good to be true, but it makes quite a change from a hero bashing up police, politicians and everyone else and making this country a better place to live and all that. Avakkai Biriyani, underneath the extra fittings is a simple love story of two very straightfoward, sensible and .. well, decent young people. And the two actors (Kamal Kamaraju and Bindhu Madhavi), please take a bow. While at that, Anish Kuruvilla (the director), we take our hats off to you.

The hero, Akbar is a young muslim auto driver, who’s also ambitiously trying to pass his B.Com exams. Unfortunately he also keeps failing them, but like the spider in the fable doesn’t give up. He’s tall, well mannered, kind hearted and also has a sense of humour (which none of our recent urban film heroes seem to possess). And people, it is actually possible to portray all this on screen, without making you puke on all the sweetness. That, I think, captures the brilliance of Avakkai Biriyani. It delivers dollop after dollop of sugar, and you still want more.

The heroine is a Brahmin girl, Lakshmi, who’s finished her B.Com, and is now into the avakkai urgai business. She’s fun, confident, very pleasant to look at, and a family girl at heart. The romantic sequences with the initial camaraderie, the initial reluctance but a sense of trust, the mutual respect and the comfort in talking with a like minded soul, are superbly done, and culminate in a wonderful tear jerking declaration of each other’s love. A scene to cherish, poetic in its simplicity. Again, grand words are for reviewers only, the film proceeds without ado.

The background music and the songs are very pleasant on the ear, though how original they are is not very clear   There is a ring of familiarity in most of them ( OK, I take that back. I forgot that this movie came out in 2008). The film does meander a bit, there’s a villain , a Muslim Bhai, who’s causing trouble, there’s a rather lengthy auto race sequence [for a while I thought the hero was rather badly burnt, but he simply washed away the grime with some water. Maybe my complete lack of telugu skills is to blame here], and the comic but evil  headman and the Muslim Bhai are eliminated as a result.

And then, the father comes back, which gives the director the chance to show us a very beautiful sequence about setting up Lakshmi’s restaurant, and how the parents read the love in the youngster’s eyes. The father is the “all castes are welcome if they are worthy of my daughter” type, but Muslims are a strict no-no [Haha, early on in the picture, the second daughter mischeviously asks about his reaction if Shah Rukh Khan came and asked for her hand or something to that effect] Very sensible dialogues, but when people say it has a more urban feel to it, they may have a point.

And again, the parting is beautifully done. There are no words to say, and the director keeps it that way, and drives home the silence. And, because it is a feel good film, there is a “After n years” end, which is again a time to reach for your hand-kerchief to wipe away happy tears. A pat on the back for the script writer here, he captures the scene perfectly. After all, what do you say to each other after that long a separation ? [“Why did you call me here ? I mean ..”, Oh the hurried addon “I mean” speaks volumes, if accompanied by that look in Kamal’s eyes. To tell her that he has longed for this meeting, but knew not what could be done about it, to ask her what has changed now, to reassure her that he doesn’t want to be anywhere else in the world at that moment.]

I found the end slightly disappointing. After being rather down to earth all this while, why this need for giving your lover  a wedding card with his own name on it, and torturing him till he reads the whole thing ? This just makes the viewer think about how a man could be so presumptuous as to print the wedding card before hand ? [OK, the hero is clearly in love and everything, but he’s just become some officer of importance, shouldn’t he be consulted for the date and time atleast ?]

On the other hand, it is an opportunity for the director to show us Kamal’s reactions when he thinks Lakshmi is getting married off, so that is a huge advantage. And anyway, after all the lines are scanned, realization dawns, the truth sinks in, there’s joy in the world as the happy couple greet each other (and probably Lakshmi questions the new questionable moustache]

It is not an art film by any stretch and was never intended to be. It is a clear commercial entertainer, and one you can watch without cringing, looking the otherway to try avoiding belly dances and item numbers and aruvaals dripping with blood.

P.S –  I had no eyes for Kamal Kamaraju who played the haughty IPS officer in Godavari, clearly I did not even register his presence. Here, I had no eyes for anyone else. Hm, maybe I only notice the” nice guys” in a movie.

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