‘Biriyaani’ Movie Review: Powerful Jabs Against The Hyper-conservatism Raging Through Religions

Shown at the 25th Kerala International Film Festival, Sajin Baabu’s film takes a fresh look at the plight of families of radicalized Muslim youth

Scratching an issue to the surface and propagating misconceptions, without really adding anything of value to the debate, is what mainstream cinema often ends up doing. In BiriyaaniShown in the Kaleidoscope category at the 25th Kerala International Film Festival, Sajin Baabu takes a topic discussed in the mainstream and looks at it from a new perspective, adding layers that were missing from our analyzes.

His point of departure for him is reports in recent years that Muslim youths have been radicalized by Salafist influences, and that some of them are leaving home and joining the Islamic State terrorists. His concern here is not radicalization or the young people who have left, but the effects of this on their families. In fact, the missing youth only appears in news stories, not as a character.

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Clings to hope

Khadeeja (Kani Kusruti), the missing youngster’s sister, already faces quite the battle in a loveless marriage to an older man. Her brother’s disappearance has left their mother mentally unstable. The news of his disappearance also leads to social exclusion. Khadeeja’s life seems to be a constant shift from one hopeless situation to the next, yet she clings to the little grace that life occasionally brings her.

Sajin Baabu made a movie in his third appearance as opposed to his first two, Until dusk and Ayaal Sasi, signs of a more mature filmmaker. He targets powerful jabs at the hypoconservatism that rages through religions, the hypocrisy beneath this outward display of conservatism and false piety, the inhumanity of some of the traditional practices and how the laws of religion are always written to favor men, and to make sure the women don’t ask the most basic questions.

Stronger comeback

Khadeeja, despite her circumstances, is not one to be broken by setbacks, rather she seems to come out of each of them with renewed vigor. Kani, who has won both a state film award and awards at other film festivals for her performance, gives the character tremendous grace and calm confidence.

Biryani, a much-loved dish that has also fallen victim to communal propaganda in the present day, is in this film a sign of protest from a woman who is surrounded on all sides by religion, society and circumstances.

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