Annapoorani is no longer available on Netflix. This Nayanthara starred was removed as Netflix succumbed to pressure from netizens accusing it of hurting religious sentiments. And, there are more reasons than one for this film to be trolled by Hindutva brigade, writes Rajeshwari Kalyanam
The film is about Annapoorani – played by Nayanthara – daughter of a temple cook, whose family has been making the temple prasadam / offering for at Srirangam generations. She loves to cook and has the innate ability to predict the ingredients by just tasting a dish. And, here she is aspiring to be a top chef for which she has to not just cook non vegetarian dishes but taste them as well. And, there is her father who leaves behind an engineering degree and a cool job to cook for Ranga, and he isn’t stoked with the idea of his dear daughter Annapoorani cook in the same kitchen a non-vegetarian dish is being cooked, leave one cook the food.
The film is about how Annapoorani secretly enrolls for culinary course, to pursue her passion, and reaches her goal despite the many challenges she faces. The story is in fact about having an aspiration, overcoming challenges and achieving your dreams against all odds, especially for a woman.
Yet, Netflix was forced to remove the film from its platform succumbing to pressure from netizens accusing it of hurting religious sentiments.
So, where does it go wrong or rather what does it have to hurt the religious sentiments. To begin with – in this time and age where people more than ever before are easily hurt, especially with any discourse that challenges religion and traditions – having a daughter of a Srirangam temple cook – a Brahmin in the service of God – aspire to be a chef cooking everything under the sun might be a possibility, but evidently unacceptable when said in so many words – or rather through a successful film. Never mind that it does happen in real world where a vegetarian does convert into a non-vegetarian and vice versa – yet for some reason this aspect seems to have rubbed people in the wrong way and was one of the reasons that film was trolled online.
Then there is a reference to Lord Rama and that he was a non-vegetarian. This is a fact that somehow seems to have ruffled the sensitive upper caste flagbearers. There is a dialogue in the film that includes a verse from Valmiki Ramayan referring to how Ram and Lakshman have hunted animals for food. After all, can we deny he was a Kshatriya and as per tradition and culture Kshatriyas did hunt and ate non-vegetarian food.
When Annapoorani is in dilemma, her friend Farhan played by Jai reminds her of this reference in Ramayana and tells her that it is okay to cook nonvegetarian food if that’s what it takes for her to become a top chef. This friend in question is a Muslim and Nayantara learns to cook Biryani from his mother and it is this dish that helps her win in the climax (sorry for the spoiler). Could it have been the religion of the male protagonist that is the main bone of contention or let’s say ‘matter of contention’ to avoid controversy in the context (pun intended). It appears to be so as quite predictable when the film started getting into the top list – the protests and whataboutery only increased forcing the OTT platform to succumb to pressure.
Whatever be the reason the select few felt the film hurt religious sentiments – here is one more film – a decent one at that – bite dust. That said Annapoorani was a watchable film, not a great one – as the plot is a familiar one. But it surely had some interesting aspects for food lovers like how Annapoorani makes a south Indian thali without using stove and references to Sangam literature and the record of the dishes cooked in the yore.
The film currently is in the news not for the food or for the women empowerment it tried to showcase. When the film was removed from Netflix one cannot help but reflect upon the heroes in the past who catered to their fans from all religions. You did not get hurt when a Hindu Vijay prayed in a mosque or an Arvind Swamy married a Muslim in Bombay.
That said one can cannot easily recollect a mainstream Bollywood film or even a south film but for Malayalam cinema that had a Muslim man in the lead romantically inclined towards a Hindu woman. That some food for thought.