Have you watched a movie you came across had no idea what this is about, and you decided to just watch it anyways on an OTT platform? That sums up my experience with this Tamil indie film Kadaseela Biriyani, distributed by YNOT Studios and is now available on Netflix. It's only then I read the reviews and responses and honestly, all of the reactions are in sync with mine. It's a weird but intriguing take on a commercial trope overused in Tamil cinema (sons avenging their father's death here) and decides to subvert it with a dose of dark humor, indie-style filmmaking, and unpredictability within this narrative. It's what makes this film so good, even if there are some bumps along the way.
The movie narrated by Vijay Sethupathi, tells the story of Chikku Pandi and his older brothers, Periya Pandi and Ila Pandi, who takes on the task of avenging their father killed by a Malayali landlord. Sure, with that template the movie would have to justify the lengths it takes to kill that man but this movie does something to subvert those cliches present with that trope:
- What if one of the brothers (Chikku Pandi) is a kid who wants to live a simple life as his father wanted, and in the process doesn't want to go with it?
- What if the task is completed halfway through the movie but introduces another bigger obstacle on the way?
- What if that kid brother ends up all alone after that task and in the process becomes prey for the landlord's son? (played by Hakkim Shah)
- And lastly, what if the tone had a darkly pitched black comedy instead of a full-blown action masala flick?
...But while Doctor is a big star-driven flick, Kadaseela Biriyani is an indie low-budget film with lesser-known actors in the lead...
The last one though we've recently seen was Doctor which has those elements but it also had the lead played by Sivakarthikeyan play his character who basically is a guy who acts with logic and with a straight face plus monotone delivery, which is unusual for an actor known for his big smile and his boy-next-door personality. But while Doctor is a big star-driven flick, Kadaseela Biriyani is an indie low-budget film with lesser-known actors in the lead. With that said, the movie's biggest strength is how well shot it is. Some of the establishing shots, especially the beginning where the father is consoling a younger Chikku Pandi at a bonfire, are beautifully mounted. There's professionalism in the way it's made, from the cinematography to the brilliant editing, even with a low budget it never comes off as a hindrance here. The humor also gives the movie its own uniqueness ranging from childish (brothers making up offensive names to generating disgust towards the landlord's son is a hilarious locker room-talk), a police officer who gets tickled easily (the payoff is easily the funniest scene of the whole movie) and even the violence while gruesome comes off as nonchalant (the ending has a cameo by Vijay Sethupathi, who nonchalantly tells one of the characters the "stat" of his crime he has committed). The performances are uniformly great, especially the antagonist played by Hakkim Shah who has a monologue about how he killed his stepbrother unbeknownst to his father that he existed which plays out like a darkly humorous scene akin to a Tarantino film. His menace is quietly intimidating but his gleeful attitude around his violent atrocities could make you feel guilty of laughing out loud. All of these make this movie so good but it doesn't reach the potential of being great.
The issue, however, with this film is that at some point in time, there's a lull in between the tasks where you see all the characters running around in the woods. Those scenes mostly dominate the runtime and at times you feel a bit impatient. It takes away the tension building up and the momentum generated by the pitch-black humor. Some might also find the tonal shifts jarring but personally, I didn't mind as much as whatever the movie throws at us, it still comes off as engaging. The first few minutes can get a little confusing as far as what the plot is about as we initially have no idea what the movie is about. But still, all flaws aside, this is a promising debut from Nishanth Kalidindi who has a strong cinematic voice and with many young directors flourishing within the Tamil cinema industry, he soon could become one of them.