The Tamil film ‘Annapoorani: The Goddess of Food’ finds itself embroiled in yet another controversy as an FIR (First Information Report) has been registered against the film’s makers and actors in Madhya Pradesh. This development comes in the wake of widespread outrage on social media, where the film has been accused of promoting conversion to Islam, misrepresenting the revered deity Bhagwan Ram and offending the religious sentiments of Hindus.
The film, which has previously faced complaints in Mumbai, is now under scrutiny for promoting ‘Love Jihad’ and non-vegetarianism, further intensifying dissatisfaction among the audience. The narrative in the film, centers around a Hindu temple pujari’s daughter, played by lead actress Nayanthara, who is depicted offering Islamic prayers (Namaz) during a cooking competition. The character is portrayed wearing a Hijab before reciting Namaz, sparking criticism and controversy.
The FIR, number (17/2023), was officially lodged at the Omti police station in the Jabalpur district of Madhya Pradesh on January 10. The accused mentioned in the FIR include the film’s director, Nilesh Krishna, lead actress Nayanthara, along with Jatin Sethi, R Ravindran, Point Gogoika, Sarika Patel, and Monica Shorgill.
Complainants, identified as members of the Hindu Sewa Parishad, have raised objections to the film’s portrayal, alleging that it promotes conversion. In particular, they highlight a controversial scene in the movie’s conclusion where the protagonist is seen wearing a Hijab and offering Namaz to win the competition. Additionally, the character’s boyfriend, Farhan, is seen referring to Valmiki Ramayan to justify non-vegetarianism, claiming that Bhagwan Ram consumed animals during canvas (Exile).
The film, prominently featuring Lady Superstar Nayanthara, made its debut in theatres on December 1, 2023. Initially, it was exclusively available on Netflix in the original language. However, on December 29, the movie was released in Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, and Hindi, accompanied by English subtitles.
The plot centres around Annapoorani, portrayed by Nayanthara, an aspiring chef from a Brahmin family aspiring to master the art of cooking non-vegetarian dishes. In her pursuit, she covertly enrols in a culinary school and later competes in a cooking competition with the ultimate goal of becoming a Corporate Chef.
Annapoorani, born into a traditional Iyengar family in Srirangam, is the daughter of Rangarajan (Achyuth Kumar), who once held lucrative positions but chose to dedicate himself to serving Bhagwan Ranganathar as a temple chef. With an innate talent for discerning flavours, even from her breast milk, Annapoorani is inspired by her father’s culinary expertise. Despite her profound passion for cooking, her upbringing prohibits her from preparing non-vegetarian dishes.
Under the guidance of India’s renowned chef, Anand Sundarajan (Sathyaraj), Annapoorani grapples with a dilemma as her orthodox father views her proximity to meat as a sin. Balancing her culinary aspirations with her father’s traditional beliefs, she endeavours to realise her dream of becoming a corporate chef. The film unfolds the narrative of her journey, exploring whether she succeeds and delving into the challenges she encounters on her path to culinary excellence. All these questions find answers in the two-and-a-half-hour cinematic experience.
The film encounters a pivotal moment when, participating in a cooking competition, the protagonist is tasked with preparing Biryani. In a sudden recollection from her college days, a Muslim woman had shared her secret for crafting exceptional recipes. According to the woman, the extraordinary taste in her food arises from offering Namaz before cooking.
In response to this memory, the lead character retrieves a black cloth, dons a Hijab, and sits on the floor to perform Namaz before proceeding to cook the Biryani. The scene is accompanied by music featuring lyrics such as “Maula mere Maula, tu hi rakhwala… there ishq ke hi noor see qayanath roshan hui… apne rang me mujhko rang de Maula.”
1. Hindu girl, daughter of a pujari offers namaz to win a food competition.
2. A pure vegetarian must cook non-vegetarian food as it is written in Ramayan.
3. Bhagwan Ram during vanvas ate animals!
— Subhi Vishwakarma (@subhi_karma) January 6, 2024
During the tasting session, when the judges inquire about her remarkable culinary skills, she responds, “Biryani has no religion; it is an emotion.” She goes on to emphasise that offering Namaz enhances the flavour of the Biryani, making it taste its best.
Surprisingly, in a different scene, Farhan, the lead’s boyfriend, encourages her by quoting verses from the Ramayan to argue that non-vegetarianism is not a sinful act. As she ascends the stairs toward her goal, he motivates her to pursue her dreams.
In their conversation, he recites Sanskrit verses, stating that Valmiki wrote in the Ramayan that during their exile (Vanvas), Bhagwan Ram, Lakshman, and Mata Sita consumed animals when they were hungry. Earlier in the video, the lead, as the daughter of a Hindu pujari, is hesitant to cook meat. Despite Farhan’s attempt to convince her, the lead remains unwilling to prepare non-vegetarian dishes in the clip.
Earlier this week, former Shiv Sena leader and founder of Hindu IT Cell, Ramesh Solanki, has officially filed a police complaint against the creators of the film ‘Annapoorani.’ He accuses them of disrespecting Bhagwan Ram and offending the sentiments of the Hindu community. In a letter directed to the Chief Inspector of the Lokmanya Tilak police station, Solanki demands prompt action against the alleged anti-Hindu content portrayed in the movie.
‘Annapoorani’ debuted on Netflix on December 28 of the previous year and is the 75th film featuring the acclaimed Tamil actress Nayanthara. The film is a collaborative production of Trident Arts, Zee Studios, and Naad Studios.
Expressing his discontent, Solanki stated, “At a time when the entire world is celebrating the Shri Ram Mandir Pran Pratishtha scheduled for January 22, this film degrades our Prabhu Shri Ram and seems deliberately released to harm Hindu sentiments.”
Highlighting specific instances, Solanki pointed out, “The actress’s father, a temple pujari, has been making Bhog for Bhagwan Vishnu for seven generations, but his daughter is depicted cooking meat, falling in love with a Muslim, observing Ramzan Iftaar, and offering Namaz.”
As of now, there has been no official response from the filmmakers regarding the controversy.
The controversy surrounding ‘Annapoorani’ underscores the ongoing debate about artistic expression, religious sensitivity, and the portrayal of cultural and religious themes in cinema. As the legal proceedings unfold, the film’s makers and cast await further developments in this contentious matter.