Sajin Baabu, the director and writer of the independent Malayalam film Biryani which has won over 20 awards in several film festivals, alleged that theatre owners in Kerala were deliberately “trying to cut off shows” of the film.
Biryaani released in theatres on March 26.
In a Facebook post, Sajin wrote that he had been receiving complaints about some theatres cancelling shows or dissuading people from watching his film. He wrote that posters were being removed from some theatres to make it look like the film was no longer being screened. He alleged that when people tried to book tickets at the theatre counters, they were encouraged to watch other running films instead, terming Biriyaani as “bad” and “obscene”.
Talking to Silverscreen India, the director said theatre owners were behaving like a “super censor board”.
“Theatre owners, managers, and the staff are deciding by themselves that the film is not good and that people should not watch it. We had already taken a censor certificate so it was mentioned in the posters and everywhere else that it is an ‘A’ rated film. After Qube and UFO have given the film file to theatres, the owners and staff are watching the movie and deciding to not release it. When I contacted the theatre association president about this, he said he doesn’t have any knowledge regarding this and is not ready to talk,” he said.
When Silverscreen India contacted K Vijayakumar, president of Kerala Film Chamber, he was unavailable for comment.
Sajin mentioned that the film was able to get a theatrical release after “enduring a lot of financial difficulties and hardships”.
“We released in only 28 theatres throughout Kerala and out of that, 10 of them are not ready to screen the film,” he said.
The director said his film was facing the most difficulty in getting a screening in the Malabar region of Kerala.
Asked what the theatre owners were finding offensive in the film, Sajin said the “patriarchal society” was to be blamed for it. “Mostly it’s the men who aren’t liking the film because it is from the point of view of a woman. Biryaani explores a woman’s sexuality, her orgasms, the core reality which is often not talked about.”
In another post, he shared a screenshot that said that the film was being pirated.
Adding that he has barely received any support from the Malayalam film industry, Sajin said that the only respite for the film was OTT. He informed that some platforms have approached him and he was yet to make a decision regarding the same. He will also be releasing the film next week in Chennai, Coimbatore, Mangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Delhi, and Kolkata.
“It’s 80% confirmed that from 2nd April onwards we will release in these cities,” he said.
Produced by UN Film House, Biriyaani stars Kani Kusruti in the lead role. Her role won her the Kerala State Award for Best Actress in 2020. Karthik Muthukumar is the film’s cinematographer and the film has been edited by Appu N Bhattathiri.