Annapoorani — Spiced with the wrong masala

by Trailerman Sam

And the Good Lord commanded Man: Of every tree of the garden, you may eat freely. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat.

Annapoorani: The Goddess of Food is a 2023 Indian Tamil-language drama film directed by Nilesh Krishnaa in his directorial debut and jointly produced by Jatin Sethi and R. Ravindran under Zeen Studios, Naad Sstudios and Trident Arts.

Annapoorani was released in theatres on Dec 1 with a fair share of mixed reviews from critics. While one side praised for showing a woman from an orthodox family following her dreams, a much larger portion of the audiences branded the movie with “undercooked subplots and topped with stale jokes”.

Nayanthara, who has earned the moniker ‘Lady Superstar of the South’, co-starred with an undistinguished Jai Sampath. Weren’t there much more famous male actors considered? Or could it be that there were no takers in what could spell out to be a very religious sensational slant after reading the script?

During an interview conducted after the release of Annapoorani, Nayanthara talked about how uncomfortable she felt being called ‘Lady Superstar’. She requested the anchor of the interview not to address her by that title after he had done so.

Nayanthara humorously likened being called ‘Lady Superstar’ to a feeling like being scolded. Everyone in attendance at the interview laughed at her playful plea as she graciously requested them to refrain from using that label. Funny though, the movie starts with the ‘Lady Superstar’ caption!

Nayanthara played the leading role as a Brahmin woman who aspires to become a chef, going head on against her family’s religious beliefs, eating meat and learning how to cook it. Many Brahmins don’t consume meat in accordance with their rigid caste rules.

Some Hindus did take offence at a scene when the character, Jai Sampath, who held a different religious belief and claimed that one religious deity ate meat! A police case has been filed in Madhya Pradesh state against Nayanthara and two others associated with the film.

Even though it was cleared by India’s Central Board of Film Certification, this controversy began weeks later as more people watched the movie on streaming channels.

Reuters reported that members of a hardline organisation took to the streets and hurled slogans outside the streaming platform’s office in Mumbai. Some religious groups there too have filed police cases against the film’s director, writers and creators.

Zee Entertainment Enterprises, the parent company of Zee Studios, which co-produced Annapoorani, made a public apology and said it did not have intentions to hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus or Brahmins.

The company assured the public that it was working with relevant streaming channels to remove the film from being screened. While some said they were happy at the movie being taken off by the streaming platforms, others have expressed dismay.

Actress Parvathy Thiruvothu said this would set a “dangerous precedent”. But this is not the first time that content on streaming platforms have been on the receiving end of protests and police cases by right-wing groups riding on a wave of political and cultural undercurrents that have surfaced in India over the last few years. The director and writer of Annapoorani have yet to comment at the time of my writing this.

Netflix responded by stating that the film had been removed. This resulted in the ratings plunging to three out 10 stars.

Netflix’s Indian arm posted a net turnover of Rs 2,214 crore or US$300 million for the financial year 2022-2023, up 24.1 percent year-on-year. That’s no chicken feed but a mammoth income for any company! In the final analysis, losing one movie is better than facing a backlash from the usually movie-mad Indian public. It was a right move by Netflix.                                     

Trailerman Sam writes from Lunas, Kedah where he observes many things under the sun and those away from the sun. The views expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of The Weekly Echo.