Annapoorani could have been prepared more deliciously

Nayanthara in and as Annapoorani. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

Cookery is a subject that is not much explored in our cinema. Interestingly, all three movies I remember (other than Bawarchi, which was a social in which cookery was incidental)—Chef and Tadka—Love is Cooking—have been products of Southern filmmakers, and the first also was an official remake of an American film of the same name.

This time, cooking isn’t an incidental part of the story but the movie tackles socio-religious issues, including gender equality and the draconian hype of vegetarianism versus non-vegetarianism, as well. But it also brings in (methinks needlessly) melodrama over a physical ailment and a villainous cook—issues that make the narrative almost spin out of control.  The end is predictable, obviously, but the detailing is similar to sports- or competition-based movies and yet less edge-of-the-seat in the interest quotient.

‘Annapoorna’ means the goddess of food in Hindi, and the heroine here, Annapoorani (Nayanthara) is shown as a prodigy in this field since childhood. She happens to be the daughter of Rangarajan (Achyut Kumar), a temple priest and a Lord Vishnu devotee. The temple, interestingly, is of a Muslim woman, daughter of a Delhi Sultan, who was devoted to the Hindu deity, who laid down her life at the door of her object of worship.

Rangarajan cheers his daughter all along and encourages her, making her watch videos of renowned chef Anand Sundarrajan (Sathyaraj), but when she expresses a desire to take up cooking as a profession, digs his heels in because that would mean cooking and probably consuming non-vegetarian food too, which would be a sin.

But Annapoorani’s friend and admirer, Farhaan (again a Muslim) encourages her to scale heights in her ambition, showing surprising knowledge of Hindu mythology in which he narrates anecdotes of how Lord Ram, Sita and Lord Shiva had consumed non-vegetarian food.

Annapoorani (who I shall call Poorani, as she is addressed throughout the film) is forced to wed when her secret is out (she has joined a catering institute as the only girl there). But the loyal Jai helps her escape, supported by Rangarajan’s mother (Sachu). She pens a note to her furious father, stating that she will see him again only after she becomes someone of whom he will be proud.

With the help of her loyal friends, and a mega-slice of good luck, she enlists in the hotel in which Anand himself and his son, Ashwin (Karthik Kumar) are working as chefs. She proves her mettle there as well, and everything is fine until Anand makes her enroll in the “Indian Best Chef” contest. So what happens next?

A freshly-brewed, appetizing and innovative plot like this should not have been sprinkled with typical melodrama and that becomes the rancid part of a script that could have been more concise and gripping and a shade more realistic rather than sappy. Without revealing spoilers, I must say that the songs are too many and clutter up proceedings despite being background numbers, the predictability is stretched rather than crisp and the extreme villainy of one character rather excessive and incredible to the end.

Nayanthara generally makes for a convincing Poorani, but her expressions do fall short in the intensity needed on occasion. Jai as Farhaan is alright and Sathyaraj as Anand is competent. Cast as the autocratic father, Achyut Kumar is believable but his expressions are too limited. Sachu as the grandmother is, as expected for such a role, pleasant, while Karthik Kumar does ham frequently. As Poorani’s friends, the rest do well, but a special mention must be made of Ovi Bhandarkar, who is extremely effective as the child Poorani.

Overall, this is a good effort that could have been made much better, Annapoorani is more of a home-watch material—it was a theatrical release in Tamil, and dexterously tackles the religious and veg./non-veg. issues  as well, But, for a change, a completely realistic and credulous treatment in the second half and a shorter length would have benefited the film immensely.

Zee Studios, Naad Sstudios & Trident Arts present Annapoorani Produced by: Jatin Sethi & R. Ravindran  Directed by: Nilesh Krishnaa Written by: Nilesh Krishnaa & Prasanth S. & Arul Sakthi Murugan Music: Thaman S. Starring: Nayanthara, Jai, Sathyaraj, Achyuth Kumar, K. S. Ravikumar, Karthik Kumar, Renuka, Sachu, Redin Kingsley, Suresh Chakravarthy,  Parvathi T., Chef RK, Poornima Ravi, Baby Samyuktha, Som Shekhar, Priyadarshini Rajkumar, Ovi Bhandarkar & others








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