Venkat Prabhu made a smooth transition from acting to filmmaking with Chennai 600028 which till date remains his best film, not just for me but for a whole lot of others following his career. Connecting cricket and cinema, two things that appeal the most to Indians, the film was peppered with a lot of humour and was as realistic as it could get. The film also enabled a whole lot of younger actors to emerge into the forefront. While his next two films Saroja and Goa couldn’t repeat the same magic of Chennai 600028, nevertheless they were still fun films by and large. While all these 3 films were made with multiple young actors, Venkat Prabhu moved to the big league with his 4th film, Mankatha where he got the opportunity to work with a big hero for the first time, Ajith. Not only was the film a big hit, bringing cheers to the fans of Ajith and making Venkat Prabhu even more popular, Mankatha also conveyed that Venkat Prabhu could also go beyond his “boy zone” and make films with big popular stars as well.
Hence when his next project Biriyani was announced, it sounded interesting. Though Venkat Prabhu was apparently to do a film with Suriya for Studio Green, eventually with Suriya getting busy with Singam 2, Biriyani got announced with his Suriya’s brother Karthi (this is supposed to be a different film altogether to the one planned with Suriya earlier). The ever popular rice dish- biriyani is a food connoisseur’s delight and is an item that’s simple yet complex. Given the right ingredients, the flavouring and style it can be a gastronomic delicacy or just be a plain disaster. Hence I thought the title suggested something similar in case of the movie as well. Karthi has been having a torrid time of late with his recent films like Saguni, Alex Pandian and (All in All) Azhagu Raja turning out to be duds. But with Venkat Prabhu’s credentials this looked the project which could bail out Karthi finally. The initial teaser and trailer didn’t catch my attention and I found it wanting for some reason or the other. Thankfully the new trailer released just when the release was around the corner raised hopes and thus I set off to watch Biriyani FDFS (First Day First Show).
Right from the very beginning you get to know how the film is going to turn out to be. As the film starts we witness a car chase with Sugan (Karthi) and Parasu (Premgi Amaran) being on the run. What has led them to this precarious position and what happens next is what we see in this 150 minute film (the film was originally rumoured to be a lot lengthier). Sugan and Parasu are close friends through school and engineering college and now work for the same firm. Sugan’s sister (played by Madhumitha who had done a lot of films as heroine earlier) is engaged to be married to a senior colleague of Sugan and Parasu (Subbu Panchu). Sugan is the extrovert and ever popular with women, the right opposite of Parasu. During an official trip to Ambur we get introduced to other characters like Varadharajan (Nassar), a wealthy businessman rumoured behind shady deals, Varadharajan’s brother in law Ramakrishnan (veteran actor Ramki), Asst.Commissioner Sampath (Jayaprakash), a CBI officer on the trail of Varadharajan (Sampath) and Priyanka Sharma (Hansika Motwani), a T.V anchor and Sugan’s girlfriend.
One night in Ambur a slightly ‘high’ Sugan and Parasu head out for biriyani in the middle of the night and that triggers off a series of events which abruptly throws their life out of gear completely. A night that was intended to be fun and with debauchery in mind, now has them running for their very lives. This is in essence what Biriyani is all about. The film begins in typical Venkat Prabhu fashion with a lot of fun and frolic. There’s partying, booze, babes, crude jokes, people making cameos, songs and whole lot of jazz. Sugan is the kind of friend most of us know, a smooth talker who always gets the babes while Parasu has to always look around in desperation. There’s enough and more of this that’s shown though in a crude sort of way in the garb of humour. Things take a turn for the serious only post the midnight biriyani session and even then Venkat Prabhu ensures that light moments are sprinkled through the rest of the film as well.
When the film moves into the thriller zone and eventually becomes a whodunit of sorts the proceedings somehow look very ordinary. If you’ve watched Venkat Prabhu’s earlier films it’s easy to point out where the film is heading, the clues are pretty obvious. There is an attempt to appeal to Vijay fans via a song on T.V and Ajith fans with a sudden flash mob sequence set to the tune of a remixed ‘Vilaiyadu Mankatha’. In the process there are regular’s in Venkat Prabhu films like Jai, Vijay Vasanth, Arvind Akash, Vaibhav etc who make blink and miss appearances. Sam Anderson surprisingly is one of the friends of Sugan and Parasu and in an extremely serious situation mouths a dialogue like “don’t I get an action scene”? Again elements like this may appeal to those seeking just casual light hearted stuff from the film. Technically there is nothing outstanding about the film and there’s nothing new to the trained eyes.
Biriyani was also being promoted as Yuvan Shankar Raja’s 100th film and considering the kind of output he has always delivered for Venkat Prabhu’s films, it’s a surprise that none of the songs are catchy enough over here. Mandy Thakker who’s done a few Punjabi films, makes her entry into Tamil Cinema with this film and does well with what’s expected of her- to deliver the oomph factor. Hansika Motwani is thoroughly wasted in the film and is absent for a good length of duration as well. Actors like Nassar and Jayaprakash literally sleepwalk through their roles, another negative about the film. Premgi Amaran is literally the 2nd hero of the film and while he tries hard to make a mark, he does look a little off colour here. Known for his witty one liners, this time around he doesn’t have any exceptionally funny line which catch our attention.
Karthi as Sugan is in familiar territory and hence does reasonably well. This is certainly nothing in the league of his earlier films where he had displayed a lot of promise but at least its way better than his recent duds. While his chemistry with Hansika is almost non-existent, Karthi’s combination with Premgi works largely and that’s one of the better aspects of the film. Overall despite its multiple flaws Biriyani is still watchable to an extent because in trade mark Venkat Prabhu style the film never takes itself very seriously. But for a filmmaker who has always entertained us in his own trademark style, Biriyani certainly is his weakest film till date. It’s passable fare by and large, and that’s about it.
Imagine walking into a restaurant with a nice ambience when you have a craving for biriyani and you eat it only to realize that it doesn’t taste as good as it looks. Well that in a way is what Venkat Prabhu’s Biriyani is all about.