‘French Biriyani’ Review: A Wannabe Cool New-Age Comedy
The film is streaming on Amazon Prime Video
‘French Biriyani’ Review: A Wannabe Cool New-Age Comedy
French Biriyani, the latest comedy to hit Amazon Prime Video, is the sort of film you watch on a weekend to put your worries in the backseat.
It doesn’t blow your mind from the get-go, and, at the same time, it doesn’t ask you to pay attention to all the details. Check the opening line that sets off a chain of errors – “Suleiman ku sollu, sanje Solomon saamaan thartha idane antha (Tell Suleiman that Solomon will bring the thing in the evening).”
Suleiman, Solomon, and saamaan are the three most important things in the sentence here. And to whom do you think Charles (a don extraordinaire) gives this task to? His son, Mani (Mahantesh Hiremath), of course!
With that bombastic introduction out of the way, you’ve to immediately understand that this is not just a run-of-the-mill film. It’s a work that involves Urdu, Kannada, Tamil, and bits of English and French. And since the characters follow different religions (Christianity, Hinduism, Islam), it totally becomes another type of situational comedy.
Throughout the run time, nevertheless, I couldn’t get Kuntaa Nikkil’s Dakhini language dramedy, The Angrez (2006), out of my mind. The irreverence in both the movies comes out through the characters and the topsy-turvy circumstances they get embroiled in. The Angrez was the first of its kind in which multiple languages were spoken by its characters and it drew viewers by the hundreds, as it was something the movie-buffs couldn’t ignore. It wasn’t just a new genre back then, it was a new era altogether. Nagesh Kukunoor, the leader of the pack, had proved his mettle in the 90s with Hyderabad Blues. All these films are experimental in their own little ways and they explore the eccentricities of the cities they are set in.
Hyderabad Blues was devoted to dissing the idea of arranged marriages in India and The Angrez capitalized on the gaze that the NRIs would invariably gather. French Biriyani, on the other hand, takes you through the traffic-choked lanes of Bengaluru.
Danish Sait, who’s gained popularity in the last few years as an RJ, comedian and actor, stars as an auto driver named Asgar. He’s the kind of person who’s all show and no action. He easily flings curses at his brother-in-law (Purushottam, played by Nagabhushan, a Hindu character, thanks to an inter-religious love story), but when it comes to handling anything close to a fight, he’s undependable. Again, if you remember Saleem Pheku (Mast Ali) from The Angrez, you can certainly draw parallels. And the fact that these two characters speak Urdu to make their quirks look funny warrants a longer essay.
Shivaji Nagar, where Pannaga Bharana’s French Biriyani unfolds, has so many interesting characters that would make the neighbourhood appear cool and gangsta-like. But there are many problems here.
The writing that gives space to Asgar and Simon (Sal Yusuf), a French guy with whom the former is stuck, doesn’t do justice to the other sub-plots. Mani might be a comedic villain on paper, but, in the movie, he comes across as somebody who’s not familiar with the world of goofs. He mixes Tamil and Kannada perfectly, but there’s nothing more to add to his weirdness. What’s the point of his freaky hairstyle if it can’t speak for his bizarre methods of punishing his detractors?
Various characters, from the ones played by Rangayana Raghu to Chikkanna, appear every now and then to sprinkle some humour. However, since their roles seem to have been sketched in the last minute, they, too, get lost in the chaos. Raghu, who’s got a natural flair for comedy, should have been allowed to occupy a larger share of the screen space. It would have certainly helped the output in the third act.
The film’s most hilarious scene features a cow that gobbles up Simon’s mobile phone. It’s a laugh-out-loud sequence where Asgar asks the bystanders for help and when a butcher offers to do the needful, the cow moos, “Mitron.” Do you see the grandness of satire in this segment? But if you keep your spirits up and move to the next scene, you’ll see how the tone slowly nosedives. It’s this particular case of uneven writing that harms the narrative flow.
The actors alone can’t lift any comedy film. They need to be given solid scripts so that they can rely on the timing and the punch lines. Mani could have been used for so many wonderful jokes, but he’s simply given second-rate dialogues and made to take a passive-approach. Rahila (Asgar’s sister, played by Sindhu Murthy), though, is a powerhouse. She stands up for herself usually and doesn’t take shortcuts to get what she wants.
If Pannaga Bharana had focused more on these nuances and made French Biriyani for a streaming site exclusively, it’d have been better.
If the world weren’t reeling under the pressure unleashed by the coronavirus, it would have had a theatrical release. I say this with utmost sincerity as the emotion behind some of the words uttered by Mani and Asgar in different places appear to have been softened for the sake of appealing to a wider audience. And the director could have taken extra digs at news anchors through Malini (Disha Madan), a character whose job requires her to keep an eye on news-worthy stories all the time. Well, all’s well that ends well, but by the end of French Biriyani, I was left with a kind of bitter taste in my mouth.
Our rating: 2.5 Quints out of 5
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