Directed by: Nilesh Krishna
Cast: Nayanthara, Jai, Sathyaraj, Achyuth Kumar, KS Ravikumar, Redin Kingsly, Achyuth Kumar, Kumari Sachu
Runtime: 146 minutes
Available in: Theatres
There are a few moments in Nayanthara’s 75th film Annapoorani where it becomes more than a self-serious drama about breaking glass ceiling(s). And as audacious as this is going to sound, it has to do with its titular character having to cook a version of a meen kuzhambu that was said to have been invented in the 1st century AD, even before the first ever biryani. She explains the greatness of this dish as she serves it but what makes this scene wildly hilarious is how she has to cook this for Nicolas Sarkozy. We can easily predict the exact payoff for this scene the moment a character informs us that the “French President” is staying at Annapoorani’s (Nayanthara) five-star workplace but the sheer audacity of it all makes you fall for the film’s naïveté and silly assuredness.
It’s one of the few instances in the film where you’re not sure the filmmakers are being serious, so we too join in for the fun of it. In most of the remaining runtime, the film isn’t happy being a sweet, simple movie about a young girl who wants to become India’s best chef. The film its trailer promised, that of a girl who wants to escape her conservative background to become this chef, is apparently one of many things the film’s trying to say. None of these get the focus it deserved and you can see how several promising ideas are getting lost as the film shifts from one issue to another without taking us along.
In principle, you can imagine a great film that’s about a woman first having to break out of the challenges of her own home before she tries to fight the odds in the world outside. If this is decades’ worth of conservatism for Annapoorani in the film’s first half, it transforms into corporate-life jealousy and nepotism when she moves out. But instead of treading these paths with a certain lightness, everything is tuned to an epic-scale to give the film a grandness it cannot pull off.
An example of this comes in the form of a rival Annapoorani has to deal with early on in her career. Of course, this character ironically gets a dialogue about how all men are grey, but for the longest time, he comes across as a cartoon villain (he is said to be a great chef but his intro scene says otherwise) without any shade or depth. But even if you’re willing to overlook this aspect, you still struggle to understand why this character’s equation with his father goes on to sideline Annapoorani from her own movie. You get what they’re trying with it but by this point, we’ve already invested in so many subplots that the film feels like it’s going nowhere.
And then you also get a finale that culminates in a cooking competition. By this point, the film has transformed into full-blown soapy territory with multiple reaction shots of people tearing up, but you also realise you miss the softness of the film’s first half where Annapoorani was just a regular girl who wanted to get out of her home and cook some chicken. But by trying to make a full-fledged buffet, the film forgets that it could have been a very comforting film about simple dreams and the everyday battles that you get you there.