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New Kannada Film “Chilli Chicken” Sheds Light on Migrant Worker Struggles in Bengaluru

In recent years, Karnataka has seen a fervent push for the revival of Kannada pride and culture. The film “Chilli Chicken,” centering on migrants working in a hotel, emerges as a pivotal piece of cinema given this prevailing sentiment in the state.

It’s no surprise to encounter workers from the North East Region in various service sectors such as restaurants and salons across Bengaluru. Despite their ubiquitous presence, our engagement with them remains minimal, and we seldom contemplate their daily existence. Enter Director Prateek Prajosh, whose film “Chilli Chicken” provides an insightful glance into the lives of these migrants, commencing with the revelation that Bengaluru ranks second in the country for the highest number of migrants.

The narrative zeroes in on four main characters – Khaba (Bijou Thaaangjam), Jimpa (Jimpa Sangpo Bhutia), Ajoy (Victor Thoudam), and Jason (Tomthin Thockchom), who are employees at a hotel named Noodle Home, owned by Adarsh (Shrunga BV). These workers share a cramped room which, by the local standards as per Adarsh, is still considered a luxury. Adarsh points out that it’s a common practice in the city to cramp around 10 migrant workers in a single room.

Naturally, these workers experience a sense of alienation in such a vast urban environment. However, the film suggests that much can change if they assimilate more with the local populace, beginning with learning the state’s language.

“Chilli Chicken” thus serves as an essential film for those toiling far from home in India’s cosmopolitan hubs. The casual Kannada conversations among the four employees infuse the movie with a refreshing authenticity. These characters are not depicted merely as misunderstood individuals; they also make questionable choices for quick financial gains, albeit out of desperation. When we hear stories about migrants involved in illegal activities, it becomes clear that they pay a hefty price for such decisions.

Co-written by Prateek and KAS, the film delves into a quest for identity. Adarsh, portrayed with remarkable nuance by Shrunga, is a middle-class man harboring grand dreams.

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. His insecurities surface particularly around his girlfriend’s affluent father, leading to recurring conflicts over monetary success. In one of the film’s most poignant scenes, Adarsh, deeply invested in his aspirations, declares Bengaluru as his home to his employees, urging them to find their belonging in the city.

Harini Sundarajan delivers an equally compelling performance as a young woman who juggles multiple part-time jobs while creating progressive Instagram reels. Her character captures the essence of those who challenge outdated mindsets, battling discrimination head-on. Her altercations with narrow-minded individuals stand in stark contrast to the four migrants’ struggles for dignity and respect from their employers and society at large.

While the film maintains a steady pace, it hits a narrative snag post a plot twist. The screenplay shows signs of wavering focus, slightly disrupting its earlier smooth progression. “Chilli Chicken” avoids overtly favoring any side – Adarsh is far from perfect, while his rich girlfriend isn’t villainized – which complicates the director’s task of balancing multiple storylines. The interweaved lives of the migrants and Adarsh’s plight occasionally create a disjointed viewing experience, leaving audiences to wonder if these narratives will converge meaningfully.

Despite these hiccups, the director’s deft handling of a weighty topic stands out. The movie’s humor, along with Siddhanth Sundar’s captivating songs, significantly enhances its appeal.

The conclusion of the film is somewhat tidy, yet “Chilli Chicken” reverberates with sincere intention. It underscores that harmonious co-existence is crucial for collective progress, leaving audiences with an optimistic outlook.

“Chilli Chicken” is currently showing in theaters.

Please refer to the comprehensive review of the sophisticated portrayal of migrant life in the latest release, “Chilli Chicken.”