Show us the most far-fetched of storylines, and we're okay with that. Show us graphic violence - limbs being chopped off and blood spurting from the stumps - and we're okay with that. Show us over-the-top portrayals of everything from villains and the heroine's IQ and the hero's stamina, and we're still okay with that.
But a CM on a visit to a village being asked by an auto-driver for water supply, and the village getting the pipelines asked for the very next day, with no questions asked? Now, that is when we will sit up in our seats, screw our faces into contemptuous question marks, scratch our heads, and quickly recover to chuckle at the recently-offshored epidemic - the audacity of hope. That and a few other uncluttered hopes are put together in Avakai Biryani, a film which is only slightly more than just a foolish pairing of dishes.
Lakshmi (Bindu Madhavi) and her middle-class Brahmin family come to settle in Devarakonda, and her family's aim is to start an avakai business and a hotel. Devarakonda is also where Akbar (Kamal) plies his 7-seater for a living while his attempts to pass his correspondence degree are way beyond the hat trick.
Lakshmi's household has it drilled into her that 'those people' must be kept at a distance. Lakshmi does that with Akbar, but soon understands that 'those people' can mean anything from a kajal-eyed, foul-mouthed stalker who wants her on his Bullet, to a sweet-looking, simple and chivalrous auto-driver - the God they pray to, then, is not quite the issue.
When the fearlessly outspoken Akbar asks the visiting politician (the CM, no less!) to first give his village a decent water pipeline instead of any of the tourist-destination bunkum that he wants to dole out to Devarakonda, he becomes a hero. Love between Avakai and Biryani does follow, after semi-ugly threats by the bad men of the village and during Akbar's tuitions with Lakshmi, and soon, Lakshmi's parents have to be convinced. Of course, there can only be a happy ending to a film whose protagonist is a man who must be the most clean-shaven auto-driver you will ever meet.
Avakai Biryani is an uncomplicated, feel-good film, with all the correct-sounding opinions. The simple messages on communal harmony, and development, are, well, simply put and hard to miss. Nice story, nice background (clearly, Nalgonda was shot during great weather), and nice songs.
Only, not a single member of the cast and crew seems to remember that their beloved, deprived town is not in Hitech City. What are 'goodnight', 'sorry' and 'hey' doing in a village that doesn't even have proper drainage pipes? The cast (except for a few, like Rao Ramesh, for instance), the dialogues and the diction don't feel very right for this kind of a setting. And the whole courtship could have easily passed off as a romance between an enterprising college topper and an upright back-bencher, were we not told that this is the story of Jandhyala Lakshmi, the pickle-maker, and Akbar Kalam, the auto-driver.
Kamal is pleasant on the eye, easy on the dialogues, and a good actor, too. Bindu Madhavi, with her girl-next-door prettiness, is also good, and Sunitha's voice has done quite a bit of the acting. Rao Ramesh must be the best in this cast. The quality of dubbing, however, is a put-off. The background music takes the new-age semi-classical avatar, and most of the songs are brilliant. Again, the urban feel.
It's been long since there was something the entire family could watch, so you might want to give this one a try. And do carry something to eat; all that avakai on screen will make you desperately hungry.