Nayanthara’s Annapoorani movie review

Nayanthara’s Annapoorani movie review

Director: Nilesh Krishna

Cast: Nayanthara, Jai, Sathyaraj, Karthik Kumar, Achyuth Kumar

Language: Tamil

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Food is politics, especially so in India. Beef is now more a political weapon in the country and less the humble meat that fed thousands of poor households. Choices such as being vegan comes from a place of privilege and many ignorant people peddle half-baked facts such as the one where India is supposed to be a country that is majorly vegetarian. So when a film decides to address all this and more, with Nayanthara as the driving force behind it, it is definitely a brave choice. Unfortunately, the film falters big time in presenting the film. There is substance, but the seasoning doesn’t strike the right balance to make this film on food successful.

I personally liked a few things that the director had attempted in the film. To start off, Nayanthara as the titular character Annapoorani hails from a privileged caste. Her family works in the temple, and her father is a temple chef who cooks prasadam for devotees that visit the temple. In her household, food goes hand in hand with religion. Meat eating is a sin. Forget eating, but even being in its vicinity is unacceptable in her family. However, her palate is so powerful that she chases for taste in food. Naturally, her intrigue for cooking flares up at which times she learns about society’s perception regarding cooking.

It is a very simple scene really, featuring KS Ravikumar as the father of Annapoorani’s friend Keerthi. He is also a cook, but one who cooks meat and vegetables. He is what the society would perceive as a ‘samaiyalkaaran’ or a cook, who equals daily wage workers. However, a person who works at a star hotel is given the title of chef — mainly because of the class of people that he serves for. Class and privileged caste can even differentiate the same job as respectable or not depending on the people that they serve to. So her misconception is cleared at the very beginning, allowing this young girl to continue belonging to the section of society that she is from while also dreaming of becoming a chef. The film does this often, as it uses references from religion to support Annapoorani’s dreams. Be it speaking of Karna’s failure to have donated food, which led to him not getting a ticket to enter heaven, or references in Ramayanam about Ram, Lakshman and Sita hunting animals for meals; the film attempts to use the very religions that has become a weapon in the hands of conservative followers of the religion.

Now, Annapoorani has grown up in a strict household as a vegetarian. For her to choose culinary arts as a course of study comes with a huge obstacle. She must not only learn to cook with meat, but also taste it to understand how to make a delicious dish. The fact that individuals have to unlearn prejudices that the society has conditioned human into believing from when they are children is depicted at a key moment in the film.

Like I said in the beginning, food is also politics. Annapoorani’s palate helps her make the best dishes, but she cannot nail the biriyani. Every time she attempts to make it, her childhood friend Farhan (Jai) tells her that it is nowhere comparable to his mother’s dish. He is being objective here, and he truly believes that biriyani is her only weakness. To attain perfection, Annapoorani asks his mother — how is it that despite following her recipe and using the same ingredients, she is unable to recreate the taste? Farhaan’s mother tells her that she does her namaaz before she takes on the task of cooking, and wonders if maybe it is her faith in God that helps the dish acquire the taste. Here is another related between food and religion, that is binded by faith. However, the point is that it is not in the form of shackles that would interfere with Annapoorani’s dream.

Similarly, there are ideas such as workplace sexism, patriarchy in a household among other issues which are included in the film. You may think, what a progressive idea. You may think, how brave of Nayanthara to have taken on a subject as this in the correct political climate. I agree. However, the intention alone cannot make a film palatable. Just as food depends on the balance of ‘arusuvai’ (six main tastes), film requires a seamless balance of engaging screenplay, supporting visuals, and believable performances. Here, because the film has too many great ideas, but none get explored to depth, it falters. So much so, that it doesn’t effectively tell the story. What is the crux of this film? The father-daughter bond? A friendship that gives Annapoorani a direction for her dreams? No. It is about a young girl who works hard to achieve her dreams. It is about her obstacles, of which her father is one. It is about her struggles, of which sexism and patriarchy are two. If only all of them could have come together, this dish would have been delicious. Note how I did not add religion to this mix? It is because humans make religion a problem, any faith by itself is never one.

Rating: 2.5 (out of 5 stars)

Annapoorani is playing in cinemas

Priyanka Sundar is a film journalist who covers films and series of different languages with a special focus on identity and gender politics.

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