Disclaimer: Baradwaj Rangan reads and reviews scripts for YNOT Studios who are presenting this film.
Director: Nishanth Kalidindi
Cast: Vasanth Selvam, Vijay Ram, Hakkim Shah, Dinesh Mani
Kadaseela Biriyani is directed by Nishanth Kalidindi. The most interesting part about this film is the genre. It is a good old masala movie about revenge. Take Aboorva Sagodharargal, where the story is that Kamal Haasan's father is killed by the bad guys and he grows up to kill them. There is a very similar story in Kadaseela Biriyani where a Tamil man is murdered and his three young sons grow up to take revenge on the Malayali person who killed their father.
The screenplay takes this template and does many subversions. One, what if one of the brothers is not interested in revenge and just wants to live an ordinary, idyllic life? Two, what if the villain dies but they realise that an even bigger villain has taken his place? Three, what if a sweet old lady is thought of as the villain because of how fast she prepares a glass of lime soda? You might not understand the last bit until you watch the film but it is ludicrous!
Even the characters are unique. The film is filled with men who act like children. Take the three brothers for instance where it looks like the mother has forgotten to raise them as she is obsessed with revenge. The three boys grew up to be men but mentally, they are still three children. This child-like nature is present throughout the movie whether it is in the nicknames that these boys give other people, whether it's their interest in bodily functions or whether it's in their liking for ice cream. This makes them nickname a guy 'strawberry flavour' and of course with another nickname panni kusu roast (pig fart roast) it is obviously giggle time.
The narrative itself sometimes follows this format. It looks like an adult story that's been written by children. Imagine a man has been captured by another man but gets away by tickling him and all this in the midst of gruesome violence. Even if it is gruesome, it feels like it's out of a Tom and Jerry cartoon. For example, when a man drives a screwdriver through another man's eye I wasn't sure whether to laugh or not but I burst out laughing because it is so out there. It feels like cartoon violence. The director has certainly thought a lot about this world and he's very specific about how to bring out certain elements of this world onto the screen.
There's one very showy scene, but it's also, oddly, beautiful because it fades to black and coincides perfectly with the background music. Kadaseela Biriyani at its essence is very entertaining. There's one complaint that I have and it's not a very major one – the film keeps us at a distance. We don't get close to the characters because of the concept of narrative trickery; the characters never come across as real with flesh and blood. For example, there's a story about why Chikku (Vijay Ram) is different from his older brothers. I would have liked more emotion in this section. However, we do care for him and his older brothers (Vasanth Selvam and Dinesh Mani) because the chases, twists and turns keep you constantly invested.
Kadaseela Biriyani has wonderful imagery and a shot that I love the most is the one where the three brothers enter the house of the villain. The camera is at a horizontal level when they enter but it keeps lifting higher to a level from where when we see the house it looks like a witch's house from a fairy tale. It is surrounded by forest, there are no neighbors and we think there are monsters inside. And indeed there are monsters inside.
In this part of the movie, some parts of the writing seems a little convenient. For example, when one of the monsters inside the house decides to tell all the evil things he's done, the three brothers outside are able to catch on to every single word uttered by every single person living in the house. I wish the things that this monster says didn't seem like a big fat dialogue dump. I also didn't like the way the second villain finds out about the three brothers because the deed, so to speak, has already been done and there is no real reason for any of these brothers to come into contact with this monster all over again. But you can't deny that it is consistent with the rest of the movie. When one brother meets his monster, he is peeing. At another point, we see the older brother taking a leak. Kadaseela Biriyani has a genuine sense of flow.
Most of the time the film is wacky and fun and the music is wonderful because it's not cliched violins and drums. There's some genuinely eerie stuff going on and nothing is what you think it is. Even a non-living object like a coffin turns out to be filled with surprises.
Another fun aspect may be spotting various references for me. The first twenty odd minutes seemed very much out of Thiagarajan Kumararaja's world. There was a reference to a man being burned to death which reminded me of Jigarthanda where Bobby Simha burns a journalist to death.
The film's best actor is Hakkim Shah, a Malayalam actor. I have not seen him in any movie so far but he is a brilliant bit of off-beat casting. I also like the decision to have both Tamil and Malayalam in the dialogue but the problem will be for those who don't read Tamil as they won't be able to read the subtitles.
Even with all the indulgent touches, Kadaseela Biriyani is a solid debut for Nishanth Kaladindi, who has a solid vision and a good ear for humour. Afterall, the last name of the brothers is Pandi, the Malayalam slang for Tamilians.