It has been so long since we saw a well-developed storyline. While we tend to judge the run times of films rather harshly, making it a point to consider whether they cater to the reduced attention span of the current audience and also depending on how much time they devote to the development of all the subplots, relevant or not, it cannot be denied that we have missed watching a movie that just did not look like a highlight reel of things. Annapoorani brings that into our lives.
The cinema of South India has a fanbase of its own, and it is known for bringing unique concepts and out-of-the-box ideas to the screens, something that Bollywood is still miles away from doing. But we would still refrain from saying this about the more commercial segment of South cinema. However, Annapoorani is not a new story. Yet, because there are so few films like this, it feels far from cliche, though we would never say that it brought something new to the table. The film is the story of a girl named Annapoorani, who was born into a Brahmin household and, hence, finds this to be the biggest hurdle in her dream of becoming a world-class chef, since that would require her to cook and eat meat. For context, Brahmins are ‘upper caste’ (the term is controversial), and their primary caste duty is the service of God, which prohibits them from eating meat or eggs.
The thing to note is that Annapoorani picks the safer social conflict to address. It talks about women’s right to choose the path they want to walk on, which is valid, but it is also easier than discussing the class and caste conflicts that have shaped the food habits of people. Either way, social messaging in commercial films should always be taken with a pinch of salt. It is a given that it will come with a performative element, and no matter how long the film is, not all nuances will be covered because people must not be offended at any cost. After all, the controversy of an actor taking the name of a Hindu god during lunch at a Christian festival had us gasping for breath at the absurdity, but it cannot be denied that there are actual monetary losses that come with these controversies.
Coming to the movie, the central conflict keeps shifting to encompass different challenges faced by the titular character, and that keeps the audience from getting bored with the long runtime. Basically, the writing is clever and well-connected, so it works out. Secondly, though Annapoorani faces many challenges, they are so easily solved that it is almost funny. All it takes is one friendly piece of advice and a dramatic song for her to get over the problem. But that is the creative license the movie should be allowed.
Let us discuss the actors as well before going further into the review. Nayanthara is predictably good, and there is no questioning her powerful screen presence. She looks good, has a wardrobe that will send people on a shopping spree, and is more than up to the dignity and poise of her character. She is a superstar and deserves the introduction she gets. On a side note, her hair has given people goals, and the only person who even comes close to her is probably Shraddha Kapoor in TJMM (only the hair). But it is the men that we must mention. It would be unfair to say that they took us by surprise because they are all veterans in their field. But they have such an effortless style that the audience had to be helplessly charmed. Sathyaraj sir may be mostly known for playing Kattappa in Bahubali, but every role is his best, and there is an ease to his presence that must be studied. Achyuth Kumar, as Rangarajan, was on-point with his portrayal of the man of devotion who was struggling to break his biases. Karthik Kumar, as Ashwin, was also good, but perhaps his style wasn’t as effortless as the others. The only person in mainstream Bollywood who can match their style in this day and age is Anil Kapoor.
We were left wondering how Bollywood would treat this story if it ever remade it. Farhan and Annapoorani would get a love song sung by Arijit Singh. Maybe the movie will start with the elopement. We suspect that Ayushman Khurana or Rajkumar Rao will be an integral part of the movie. The men would be rewritten to be more comic. Essentially, we expect a butchering of the story. Bollywood should leave this alone.
There are some elements of the film that we wish were done differently. But those changes would remove the film from the commercial space altogether. If the audience can love a film like Jawan, they can love Annapoorani, which is something the actress deserved more and is a better look at feminism than the less-than-tokenistic Jawan. Yet, we feel conflicted about one scene at the end, where Annapoorani is seen doing Namaz before making a certain dish, which is what the person who taught her the recipe used to do. This was a scene where we felt the performativity was taken to an inappropriate level. Something about the act lacked sincerity, and it didn’t sit well with the context of the scene. It is possible that this is strictly a personal opinion, but it had to be said.
On a different note, the handling of the love story was rather mature. It did not take center stage, but there was some sweetness, in addition to the couple’s own opinions about each other, which were well-inculcated in the story. When Rangarajan expressed his opinion about his daughter’s feelings, those were the words of every South Indian father ever, and it makes us feel seen in a way we can only laugh at. Overall, Annapoorani is a must-watch because it helps you remember that there is a space where good storytelling still has value and where going viral on reels is a by-product of well-written moments instead of being the main intention. Please watch the movie for these very feelings.