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Biriyani

noun

an Indian dish made with highly seasoned rice and meat, fish, or vegetables

origin

from Persian beryā(n) ‘fried, roasted’

Biriyani is the story of two friends, Sugan (Karthi) and Parasuram (Premgi Amaren, who has been in all five of director Venkat Prabhu’s film). They work, along with Sugan’s soon-to-be brother-in-law, for a company that sells farm equipment (I think? The showroom was full of tractors, anyway). The company is opening a new showroom in Ambur, so Sugan and Parasuram drive up there from Chennai. The guest of honour at the showroom opening is wildly successful businessman Varadharajan (Nassar) who takes a shine to Sugan. Sugan and Parasuram ditch a boring party following the opening and go in search of biriyani.

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At the biriyani restaurant they spot a beautiful woman, Maya (the really very pretty Mandy Takhar) and then they come upon her again when her car has stalled by the side of the road. They agree to drive her to her hotel, and then she invites them up to her room for drinks and maybe even more, if you know what I mean [nudge nudge, wink wink]. They go up to her room and proceed to get extremely drunk, then Varadharajan shows up. Sugan wakes up the next morning in his car, Parasuram nowhere to be found. He returns to the hotel and finds Parasuram passed out on the bathroom floor next to a gun. Varadharajan and Maya are missing, and both the bed and Sugan’s sweater are covered in blood. Then the cops burst in. AND THAT’S JUST THE FIRST HALF. In the second half Sugan and Parasuram return to Chennai to try and extricate themselves from their situation.

Tamil comedy-thriller film `Biriyani` Shooting Stills. (Photo: IANS)

The film is really fun and clever. There are some pretty good red herrings in the second half. And the first half, which starts to seem kind of pointless when the action of the second half kicks in, actually turns out to contain several elements that relate to the resolution of the story. There’s also a kick-ass lady assassin which I don’t think I’ve ever seen in an Indian movie before! In fact, although Sugan/Karthi is clearly the main character, there is a nice ensemble of supporting characters who each have their role to play in the convoluted situation. The other thing I really enjoyed was the fun effects used to give the film visual interest – title cards for flashbacks, split screens during a car chase, pop ups to introduce new characters, and other special effects like, for example, when Maya invites Sugan and Parasuram up to her hotel room they grin and their teeth light up like a winning pinball machine.

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Which isn’t to say the film is perfect. Hansika Motwani, who plays Sugan’s girlfriend Priyanka, seems to have featured heavily in the promotional material for the film, but her role isn’t actually very big, and I didn’t see much chemistry between her and Karthi. And since it’s rare, in my experience, for a Tamil film to have a hero with an established girlfriend I would have preferred to see more affection and playfulness between them, rather than bickering and histrionics. But that’s a minor complaint in this case. Also, the movie does ask you to believe outlandish things in the second half but at that point I was full of good will toward the movie so I was happy to go along with it. Bottom line: you could do worse than spend an afternoon or evening with this funny, twisty, visually interesting film.

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