Director: Pannaga Bharana
Like Danish Sait’s Twitter videos through this lockdown, his new film French Biriyani, directed by Pannaga Bharana and written by Avinash Balekkala is, as its name suggests, a true confluence of characters. A host of different people belonging to different religions, different customs, different dialects come together to represent the city of Bangalore in its truest light.
There are a couple of delicious Whitefield jokes, deliberately aimed at the floating populace of the suburbs that is limited in its representation of the city. There is Urdu, a distinct Bangalore flavoured Hindi, Kannada and I think I heard some Tamil as well that forms the multicultural melting pot that is the city in a silly comedy that mixes both language and slapstick with a missing baggage and mistaken identity.
It’s silly alright. Some of the jokes land and many of them do not. Some issues are dealt with the lightest of touches, everything from worshiping the cow, beef, inter-religious marriages, ghar wapsi and masculinity turn into the writer and director’s favourite foils.
Danish Sait is Asghar, a Muslim auto driver from Shivaji Nagar who picks up a French man on an official visit – Simon (Sal Yusuf) – who finds himself at the wrong place at the wrong time. He gets a tour of Bangalore we don’t often sense when we think of Bangalore in the popular consciousness, the ones screaming start-ups and Silicon Valley of India, and some of the locations that Bharana comes up with are truly delightful. Like a police station undergoing fumigation, with the photo frames of Ambedkar and Indira Gandhi lying on the ground and the police officers having set up shop in the compound.
A single screen theatre called Climax becomes the location for the film’s closing portions, a relic of a past age that one hardly encounters in cinema set in a major city today. The jokes are easy and forgettable, mostly arising from translation losses between the French tourist and the Kannada speaking characters. A rare tasty one is a joke that is left unsaid involving “go back” and “Simon” or a throwaway scene of a newly crowned gangster traversing the city using sparkling new public transport. Yet too much screen time is given to gangster Mani and his unfunny cohorts, a portion reminding you of Lijo Jose Pellissery’s bomb Double Barrel.
To its credit, French Biriyani doesn’t take itself too seriously, but its comedic elements needed more fleshing out, some of its characters needed to be less excruciating or could have done with lesser screen time. For instance, instead of Mani, it would have been great to see more of Rahila, Asghar’s sister played by Sindhu Srinivasamurthy and her story with her insecure Hindu husband with low sperm count. The very set-up is a daring goldmine full of jokes. But French Biriyani plays it safe and over relies on language, dialects and mimicking. It’s great for sub three-minute Twitter videos but a 2-hour film is an altogether different ball game.
The French Biriyani review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreenindia.com and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.