French Biriyani involves a gang of criminals looking for a suitcase which has some important saman, a French guy called Simon who is mistaken for the carrier of said saman, and an autorickshaw driver called Azgar who finds himself in the middle of this confusion. Everything else, at least plot-wise, in the movie, is just unnecessary garbage. If it wasn’t for the cast’s dedicated performances, this Pannaga Bharana directorial would’ve been unwatchable.
One of the first movies that I watched where multiple people from various walks of life were after a form of luggage whose contents were unknown was Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Some say that the suitcase contained Marsellus Wallace’s soul, others say that it had gold. But it doesn’t matter because everything around it continues to be so engaging. One of the more recent movies that followed the same formula was Delhi Belly where a gangster and a trio of unemployed souls vied for some diamonds and hilarity ensued. French Biriyani apes all that horrendously and still, that’s not the worst thing about the movie.
French Biriyani is directed by Pannaga Bharana and written by Avinash Balekkala. The cinematography is by Karthik Palani, music by Vasuki Vaibhav, editing by Deepu S. Kumar. The production design is by Shivakumar, action direction by Jolly Bastin, and costume design by Shachina Heggar. It stars Danish Sait, Sal Yusuf, Rangayana Raghu, Disha Madan, Mahantesh Hiremath, Pitobash, Sampath Kumar, Nagabhushana, and Sindhu Murthy. The story mainly follows Simon, his suitcase, and how he’s mistaken for the carrier of the hallowed items requested by the late Don Charles. The only other relevant sub-plot is Azgar’s involvement in this mess and his efforts to get out of it by getting Simon out of it. The rest is just sh*t.
What did you write Avinash Balekkala? What did you write?
While writing reviews, I don’t talk about the plot largely because I want the viewer(s) to know about it as they watch it and interpret it as they go. This time the reason is different. This time I am not explaining the plot because it is so tiresome and filled to the brim with the most meaningless, worthless, and redundant stuff I have seen recently in movies. A lot of the subplots and characters do not have any bearing on the actual story and are dragged along until the concluding moments. A lot of them have some bearing but they’re dealt with in such a mind-numbing manner that it loses its worth. And a lot of them are just there. I think that even if a kid with rudimentary knowledge about how a movie works were told to proofread the script and come up with a draft, they would’ve done a better job than Balekkala.
For argument’s sake, while bending over backward, one can say that the movie is meant to capture the kind of cultures, languages, and people that live in a place like Bengaluru and how their greed, sexism, racism, communalism, and all other vices come to the fore due to a simple search for a missing suitcase. One can also say that the tone inclines towards ridiculousness for the sake of comedy. But there’s not a single line of dialogue, a single story arc, or a single character arc that alludes to the fact that it was the writer’s intention to do so. Instead, it looks like he grabbed a bunch of random sh*t like cow jokes, Muslim jokes, jokes about foreigners, and jokes about poor people, put them through a blender, and hoped that it would make some sense. Well, news flash! It doesn’t. I know it looks like I am not making sense. That’s because that is how senseless French Biriyani is.
Pannaga Bharana, there’s something called controlled chaos. Look it up.
I can assess what a movie is going to be like after watching its trailer. In French Biriyani’s case, I was kind of confused because the trailer was edited so poorly that it made me think that maybe there’s a watchable movie somewhere in there. The first few minutes of the movie increased that doubt because going by the set design, the cinematography, and the comedic tone, it looked like Bharana has crafted something that is quirky, fun, and an assault on the senses (In a good way). I was actually giggling when Mani had his first conversation with a water purifier seller. But everything that happened after that was awful. There’s a scene where that water purifier seller is tortured via the sound of chalk on a green board. IRL, the chalk and the green board were French Biriyani and the water purifier seller was me.
I am not exaggerating here. Two hours of French Biriyani is tough. It is tough! Unless you understand Kannada or have access to the dub version, you can’t even put it on as a background movie and just sail through it. I powered through it. All two hours of it (I am saying this twice to emphasise the fact that it didn’t need to be two hours long!). And I still have no idea what Bharana was going for. It’s like he didn’t even try to make a coherent movie out of the clearly incoherent script. It actually feels like he added more incoherency to it because he thought that chaos would be equivalent to “fun”. But it’s not. Chaos needs to be controlled and channeled properly so that it feels chaotic and enjoyable. Just chaos is noise and nobody wants to watch or hear noise.
What is this talented bunch of actors doing in French Biriyani? How did they end up here?
If French Biriyani would’ve been a compilation of Danish Sait’s hilarious videos on Twitter, that would’ve been more watchable. But since that’s clearly not the case, he and the rest of the cast had to whatever Bharana and Balekkala wanted them to do. And to be honest, they did a good job. Their physical comedy was on point. They added a lot to their characters which made them feel like real people and not cartoon characters in a non-cartoon movie. Rangayana Raghu, Mahantesh Hiremath, Pitobash, Sindhu Murthy, and Sal Yusuf made me yearn for a better movie for them to act in. Disha Madan is fine. She does her part well and appears charismatic enough to do better roles.
If someone told me that French Biriyani is a movie that was made in the ’90s or early 2000s and has been released now, I would actually believe them. Because a lot of the movie’s sensitivity towards, well, everything is dated. There’s no nuance. There’s no finesse. It’s just a bunch of things slapped together with cheap glue and painted with bright colours to pass off as a product that has just been manufactured. You can give it a try because the actors are great. The songs are passable but this is a movie and not a music video. Apart from that, I don’t see any other reason to watch this movie.
Cover image courtesy: Amazon Prime Video India