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Chilli Chicken movie review: An intriguing tale and decent performances in Prateek Prajosh's debut directorial

Chilli Chicken movie review: Debutant director Prateek Prajosh sets his tale in a small-time Chinese food joint and explores the aspirations of its owner and workforce

3/5rating
Chilli Chicken movie review: An intriguing tale and decent performances in Prateek Prajosh's debut directorial
Chilli Chicken is a Kannada film about the troubles migrant workers from the north-east face

Last Updated: 10.40 PM, Jun 20, 2024

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Chilli Chicken movie story: Adarsh (Shrunga BV), runs a small-time Chinese food eatery and hopes to someday upgrade to a more upscale version of the same. His modest business runs on the back of his four employees – Khaba (Bijou Thaangjam), Jimpa (Jimpa Sangpo Bhutia), Ajoy (Victor Thoudam) and Jason (Tomthin Thockchom). The business is not a raging success, but they make do, until a night of drunken revelry changes everything.

Chili Chicken movie review: The twist in director Prateek Prajosh’s debut Chilli Chicken was not at all what I was expecting. The trailer had hinted at chicken being passed off for a paneer dish at a restaurant and negative feedback from an influencer, while Prateek had spoken about the film being based on a real incident in which an eatery shut shop, so, the assumption was that the primary plot would revolve around food. Well, it does, but boy was I wrong about everything else.

A still from the Kannada film Chilli Chicken
A still from the Kannada film Chilli Chicken

It's refreshing when you watch something and don’t see the twist coming, or how it then plays out. I had an inkling of what would happen at the end of the night of drunken revelry in the tale, but whatever transpired thereafter not so much. There was a sense of intrigue that Prateek was able to evoke.

What really appealed to me about Chilli Chicken is that it was not just a tale about the migrant workers at Noodle Home, the small eatery run by Shrunga BV’s Adarsh, but just as much about the latter. A small-time entrepreneur desperate for a break, for which he readily cuts corners. He’s the kind of man who tells his staff they should be glad he’s letting four of them share a quarters that anyone else would have crammed 10 people in.

Prior to Chilli Chicken, I’d seen Shrunga in the yet-to-release Abracadabra at Biffes and was amazed by his turn as an ambitious and absolutely despicable magician. Shrunga brings some of that energy into Adarsh as well – a flawed human – but one who eventually finds his redemption arc.

Bijou Thaangjam in Chilli Chicken
Bijou Thaangjam in Chilli Chicken

Bijou, Jimpa Victor, Tomthin and Harini Sunderrajan are the other pillars of Chilli Chicken, with the latter deserving a special mention. Nithyashri’s role is severely limited as also that of Rekha Kudligi, while Padmaja Rao’s loan shark was a pleasant surprise. The cast members from the north east also deserve to be commended for their Kannada speaking prowess.

Racism and discrimination are minor elements in the film and Prateek does not explore that or his main characters in detail. There’s not much context about Adarsh, for instance. He has no family, a piece of property he owns is stuck in litigation and his relationship with Varsha (Nithyashri), is one that will, hopefully, have monetary benefits. Why Adarsh is the way he is or why his staff continue to work with him no matter what, does not get explanations. Perhaps, it is better that way – Chilli Chicken is heavy, but not heavy enough to sink under its weight.

The question that remains is addressed in the film, when an influencer’s video about the north east community does not go viral, unlike all of her other content. “No one cares about us”, they declare. The video’s fate turns around eventually. Will that be the case for Chilli Chicken too?

Chilli Chicken movie verdict: At the core of Chilli Chicken is respect and acceptance, a pertinent message that Prateek presents without being preachy.

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