Master ‘Chef’- Not really

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 07 Oct 2017 11:50:09


By Farina Salim Quraishi


Hollywood remakes by Bollywood filmmakers have more often than not turned out to be unpalatable offerings. Keeping their ‘filmy’ sensibilities intact while reworking even ‘foreign’ ideas, filmmakers have qualms about using, reusing and even abusing a hit formula. But standing in a different league, Raja Krishna Menon’s Chef, inspired by its eponymous original - by Jon Favreau - is a faithful adaptation, with a winsome flavour. With the soul-stirring essence intact, Chef is a dish to be savoured but a few bland ingredients keep it from being a wholesome entertainer.

Roshan Karla (Saif Ali Khan) is a passionate chef, who has lost his mojo. After attacking an unsuspecting patron criticising his food, Roshan finds himself behind the bars and later jobless for the assault. At cross-roads of life, not only professionally but even personally, Roshan is struggling to be a caring father and an understanding ex to his wife, Radha (Padmapriya Janakiraman).

Roshan is clueless about the inspiration he desperately needs. A fervent appeal by his teenage son, Armaan (Svar Kamble), to attend his high school musical, has Roshan saying goodbye to New York and heading home to Kochi. Even after bonding with Armaan, flirting with Radha and being hostile towards the all-too-perfect Bijju (Milind Soman), Roshan is still indecisive about his future until Bijju offers him a dilapidated double-decker bus. With Bijju bankrolling the food truck venture, Roshan - with Armaan tow - sets out a journey not only to find himself about also the zest of life.

Unlike its inspiration, Chef’s main ingredient is family ties with the food relegated to being a side-dish. A dish, which is served too little, and rather unappetizingly. Though the ‘Rottaz’ is a perfect Indian replacement for Cubanos; food is a poor second to parenting problems and marital discord in the movie. A film about food, that just about has a lone appetizing pasta to show for it, is rather disappointing.

While the food might not be up to the mark, Chef scores a full five in the relatability department. Right from Radha’s enchanting country house, to Chandni Chowk’s famed eateries or even the Dhaba kitchens are heart-warmingly real and act as the perfect foil to emotions and bond the protagonists share with each other.

Keeping all Bollywood clichés and stereotypes a mile away, all characters in Chef are real people, battling ordinary problems. Saif is a failed father and an unsuccessful husband but still cares deeply for his family. While, Radha though a single mother, is no beechari! She’s strong woman who knows her place in the world. Moreover, Radha’s special friend Bijju is no sleazebag, but a person wanting the best for her.

Even Saif’s relationship with his son is wonderful; sweet, spicy with just a hint of bitterness. Despite being estranged, the genuineness of the father-son bond is sure to warm the cockles of one’s heart! The director has kept a tight reign on his characters throughout but is not entirely in control of his story, which moves very unevenly. The leisurely-paced movie also comes to a standstill in several sequences and linear format of the film is patience zapping.

That little ‘something extra’, which made Jon Favreau’s Chef a worldwide sensation, is missing in its remake. Sure the film stays true to the original’s style, but the spirit is just not that flavoursome. While it is too tall an order for Saif to attend culinary school - like Jon Favreau did show for Chef - it would’ve been great if he had at least mastered a few basics! After 9 seasons of Masterchef, watching the ineptness of a ‘Michelin Star Chef’ in chopping an onion, really does bring tears to the eyes.

Keeping aside the clumsy kitchen antics, Saif’s nuanced coming of age role is first rate. Barring a couple of false notes, Saif’s understated performance is one of the best of his career. Be it being bowled over by Radha or being intimidated by the Gaitonde painting in Bijju’s elegant house, Saif surprises with this one!

Padmapriya, reprising a more well-etched out role than the one essayed by Sofia Vergara, is one fine actress. With her warm eyes and a captivating smile, the Southern beauty is striking as Radha. Be it her soft reprimanding of Saif or her earnest bond with son Armaan or her fiery stance as an independent woman, she nails her role and how! Chandan Roy Sanyal as the dedicated co-worker, Dinesh Nair as the gruff yet gregarious truck driver and the gloriously greying Milind Soman as the uber- suave companion are the essential additions which gives Chef much of its spirited tang!With its base rooted in reality and a topping of well-blended family ties, Chef is an entree which your heart will surely love.

The Hitavada Rating:  O O 1/2