Film: 'Avvakai Biryani'; Cast: Kamal Kamaraju, Bindu Madhavi, Rao Ramesh, Varun; Director: Anish Kuruvilla; Music: Manikanth Kadri; Cinematography: Shyam Dutt; Rating ***
For the uninitiated - Avvakai means an extremely hot pickle in Telugu.
The tastiest Biryani - a non-vegetarian spicy rice dish with diced meat whose name is derived from classic Persian - available south of the Vindhyas is believed to be that made in Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. It is prepared throughout India and even in the Middle-East.
Hyderabad, borders Telangana, which is the backdrop of the movie and a national political flashpoint since the linguistic division of states in the fifties.
Yet, director Kuruvilla avoids the political cliches and sermonising soliloquies that one usually associates with modern-day films featuring inter-religious love affairs (a la 'Bombay' of Mani Ratnam) and dishes out an aesthetically yummy pickled dish.
The main protagonist Akbar (Kamal), who drives a three-wheeler owned by a taxing employer (Rao Ramesh) for a living, falls for a Hindu pickle-seller-cum-restaurateur Lakshmi (Bindu) like a tonne of bricks to the chagrin of a bigoted Muslim Babar (Varun) whose villainy stems from his yearnings for the belle.
After several tense, racy sequences that etch the differences between the two communities yet to trust each other despite having lived together for over 500 years and a simple but thought-provoking climax, the movie succeeds in subtly extolling the virtue of the live-and-let-live dictum so necessary in today's life.
The names - Babar and Akbar - represent two different generations in the Mughal dynasty signifying relative intolerance and benevolent secularism, respectively, and fit the tale to a 'T' because of the modern idiom of storytelling.
Kamal and Bindu - both debutants - have acquitted themselves in a praiseworthy manner to the spirited direction by Anish.
A southern proverb has it that a tiger's offspring will never turn out to be a mewing cat. Music director Manikanth, son of celebrated south Indian classical saxophone player Kadri Gopalnath, lives this dictum by creating the apt tonal atmosphere through his songs most of which form the background helping the flow of the story.
Cinematography by Shyam paints the bleak rustic landscape of Telangana in beautiful visuals.
The only jarring notes in this lovable fable-like narration are the steamy romantic scenes.