Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Biriyani (2013)

It's been six years since Venkat Prabhu wrote and directed "Chennai 6000028", and he has went on to release four more films in that time. Most have been a commercial success but none had the warmth and realism of his debut film. Some people just cannot handle the scale, and this his true in Venkat's case. The bigger his films got, the less relatable they became. They continued to have these minor touches that made them uniquely his, but they also became more and more indistinguishable. Anyone could have made a "Mankatha" or, yes, even a "Biriyani".

With "Biriyani", he has snapped all his indie roots, if I may call it that, and made a film that goes on to become as horrifically confusing as it was promising at the beginning. The film's third act is so dense and over-written that it could have been a five part miniseries. It wouldn't have been much better, but it would have at least not given me a headache. While I loved the first one hour for how low-key and genuinely funny it was, nothing could have prepared me for the monster that the film went on to become. Yet another promising director has become a victim of the chalta hai apathy, throwing garbage at his viewers in the name of entertainment.   

Venkat Prabhu is at his preposterous best here. A character wears a prosthetic mask and his face transforms completely into that of a different person- just like in the Mission Impossible movies. Although this scene is salvaged to an extent because we get to laugh at the discord between the face and the voice, this ridiculous element is still out of place because it is not that kind of a film. You cannot expect our audience to buy this spurt of technological intervention when the rest of the film is mostly a grounded action-comedy. There's another scene where Karthi's Sudhan beats up a bunch cops in front of Premji Amaren's horrified Parasu. He later confides that those men could not have been cops because they were all very short. Ahem, hello? Remember Suriya in the Singam movies? 

Biriyani is a comedy until it's not. There are randomly placed scenes about some CBI pursuing a corrupt businessman which hint at the film eventually taking a serious turn, but that doesn't happen for a long time. When it becomes serious, it becomes serious as a heart attack. And it's not a black comedy, if that's the impression you are getting. The shift in tone is so jarring that it becomes very hard to believe how high the stakes are. Before you know it, Mamas start getting stabbed and Akkas wail as they get kidnapped and then a bunch of people die and.. it's not good. 

Just in case you have the tiniest of inkling to outsmart Mr. Venkat Prabhu and crack the mystery in this thriller, I would recommend you not to. It will only lead to confusion,headacheand disappointment, in that particular order. While I like a good twist as much as the next guy, the mediocre ones annoy me to no end. For the third time in his career, Venkat Prabhu has hinged his story on a twist. That just gives away his insecurity and lack of faith in drama alone. He thinks he is giving enough hints to keep us invested in this mystery, but all he is throwing our way are tiny breadcrumbs which help in no way to piece the puzzle together. 

The film's final 30 minutes, however ludicrous they may be, could have used another half an hour of runtime to evolve organically. You are so completely overwhelmed with arrival of new characters that it becomes immensely hard to follow the film properly. If you respected his vision enough to rack your brains trying to figure out the "who" in this whodunit, you will be rewarded with disappointment alone. He brings in a hitherto unknown character (could have either been Uma Riaz Khan or her husband Riaz Khan, not entirely sure), out of nowhere, and pins all the blame on it. I mean, what the heck? Then there's an epilogue of sorts where he takes what felt like a good ten minutes to explain the whole film. That's a clear sign of bad writing right there. 

No matter how much you dislike Karthi for his recent spate of awful films, you have to admit he has that personality, that star quality, to carry a film.  Like with Ajith's character in "Mankatha", Sudhan is already in a relationship too. His touch and go instances of flirting make it a bit hard to pass any sort of a moral judgment. The titillations in the form of Mandy Takkhar are all good but the setup is worthy of a better resolution. I promised myself I wouldn't use any food puns, but here it goes: they were right about this being a Venkat Prabhu "diet", because it very much feels like that. It should have been titled 'Kuska'. No wait, this is 'Tomato Rice', at best.