There is no specific genre to the new Sajin Baabu film Biriyaani. And that lack of genre adds a unique kind of surprise factor to how it treats the main thread. Even though on the periphery, it may look like the struggle of a Muslim woman in a conservative setup, the film wants to move away from that debate and wants to talk about a woman’s desires. With Kani Kusruthi depicting the sorrows and strengths of Khadeeja brilliantly, Biriyaani is a thematically powerful movie that approaches its politics without inhibition.
Khadeeja is the main protagonist of this movie. She is from a low-income family and was married to someone from a wealthy family who had no regard for her feelings. Khadeeja has an ailing mother who suffers from mental sickness. At one point, the news comes out that Khadeeja’s brother, who left India recently, has links with ISIS. This creates a major ruckus in her life, and how it eventually molds her as a different human being is what we see in the film Biriyaani.
The movie begins and ends with the different perspectives of the same visual. Maybe Sajin Baabu wants to ask the viewer who might have been thinking, “why are you making a big fuss about all this?”, a counter-question of “how do you feel about it now?”. The whole movie is an effort to make you think about the entire swap that happens in these two particular scenes. Sajin Baabu constructs Khadeeja so that we know she wishes to express herself in her own private space. In the beginning, she is not that gutsy to challenge the system that never supports her. But Biriyaani shows you her gradual rise and realization.
The revenge plan of Khadeeja is a very problematic idea. But somewhere, I believe me saying it as problematic comes from the place of putting women on a pedestal where she is supposed to be the great sufferer. Biriyaani is not necessarily trying to do that. The character played by Surjith tells Khadeeja that she doesn’t have to feel inferior for selling her body. And the movie also questions her revenge plan by asking whether doing something horrible can be a solution to stop awful things from happening. Sajin is not following the conventional premise-conflict-solution pattern. But the good thing about Biriyaani is that you would find yourself becoming a part of that dialogue despite the film not following the usual pattern.
The visual style we see here has handheld camera movements and static shots. Appu N Bhattathiri’s cuts balance the pace of the movie. Even though it was a very evident edit style, I loved how he created Khadeeja’s growth as a montage with many match cuts. We could see Khadeeja feeling some sort of liberation in that phase, and the fast match cuts sort of enhanced that emotion.
The brilliance in the performance of Kani Kusruti lies in the fact that she uses a narrow spectrum of emotions to convey the different state of mind of her character Khadeeja. Her husband treats her like a piece of meat, the police trashes her, she struggles to handle her mother, and she smirks at the demands of the men who approach her. And whenever the camera gives us a close-up shot of Khadeeja in all these situations, one could sense the pain, fire, and that sense of irreverence in that character. Shailaja Jala as Khadeeja’s mother was good in her character, and actor Surjith also delivered a memorable performance as the supportive figure.
In the movie, we could see multiple prominent personalities talking about the events happening in the current political scenario. The anti-minority thoughts, the reality behind ISIS, the extreme nationalism, etc., are given a separate track in the movie as the film here is not trying to talk about a particular community specifically. Biriyaani is showing us how less acknowledging society is when it comes to the genuine desires of women. Maybe that’s why those panel discussions stood away from the main track.
Biriyaani is showing us how less acknowledging society is when it comes to the genuine desires of women.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended