Ghar Banduk Biryani, about a lovelorn rebel commander, an expert biryani cook and a principled police officer, could well be the world’s first singing-dancing Maoist comedy. First-time director Hemant Awtade nearly carries off a hodgepodge of black humour, elaborately choreographed action scenes and minor subversions.

The Marathi film is set in the fictitious Kolagad region in Maharashtra. Pallam (Sayaji Shinde) heads a gang of men called dacoits in the movie but are Maoists for all practical purposes (they wear uniforms, have AK-47s and grenades, and are committed to their ideology). Pallam is sorely missing his dead lover – and his feelings have a lot to do with the delicious biryani she would rustle up for him and his unit.

Hunger is surely one of the leading causes of revolution. Pallam and his posse kidnap the talented cook Raju (Akash Thosar) to make biryani for them. A government scheme offering money and houses in exchange for surrender encourages Raju to stick by Pallam’s side, however reluctantly.

Enter Raya (Nagraj Manjule), a no-nonsense police officer whose macho antics are best seen in slow motion. Manjule, who has also produced the film, gets several lengthy scenes to prove his action hero credentials.

Aaha Hero, Ghar Banduk Biryani (2023).

In any case, it’s hard to get serious about the outlaws, who are forever careening between buffoonery and brutality. It is to the director’s credit that he makes us care for the mercurial Pallam and his loyal followers. Despite being pushed to the margins once Raya enters the game, Sayaji Shinde’s Pallam and Akash Thosar’s Raju are characters whom we warm to and would have wanted to be around longer.

The narrative tone keeps shifting from satire to seriousness and romance to political tract. Awtade retains empathy for the militants and reserves his firepower for an extended shootout in the forest, where Raya meets enemies of the state as well as his actual enemies.

Awtade is simply too chuffed with his concoction to trim back scenes when he should. A good portion of the 161-minute movie is wasted on watching Raya single-handedly take on armies of hoodlums.

Awtade’s talent for earthy humour fails him in the moments when Raya channels his inner Allu Arjun. Pallam is a clown, Raju is charmingly naive, and Raya is often ridiculous but the joke is never on the producer.

Ghar Banduk Biryani (2023).