Chef Review

"This seems to be Radha Menon's conspiracy to dilute the legacy  of the 'loins' of Punjab", says Saif Ali Khan, the Chandni Chowk bred boy whose son fails to understand what is Chole Bhature. It is definitely a matter of concern for the north Indian man, once married to a Malayali woman who left him for his inability to understand her desire for attention from her husband and moved back to her native town Kochi.

Roshan Kalra's first love since adolescence was food and the smell of it. He would run away from home to learn cooking, as his father played by veteran Ram Gopal Bajaj detests the idea of a man burning his fingers in the kitchen. He should grow up to be a doctor or an engineer. Roshan struggles to find a job in a restaurant, kills rats, sleeps on the floor and one fine day, makes it big in the United States of America. Did you read the recent news story of an Indian who makes 4 crore a year selling Vada Pav? Well Indians understand the global taste buds and given a chance, they can strike gold in the culinary world especially in the west. Roshan was a man who did it.

A remake of an English film Chef ( 2014) which starred Dustin Hoffman, Robert Downing Jr. and Scarlett Johansson, this film directed by Raja Krishna Menon explores relationships without any bitterness. Menon who earlier directed Airlift with Akshay Kumar , sketches a very likeable and humane character of a man who is capable of love but ends up losing it. He shows Saif Ali Khan like he really is, suave and definitely a gentleman. The character sketch of Roshan Kalra is one of the finest films in the film. He is a little unpredictable, a lot of fun, non-judgmental, easy going man who does not show any signs of chauvinism even as his ex-wife throws the idea of her remarriage to him. He comes and stays inside her house, jokes with the staff and even establishes a calm relationship with his ex-wife’s partner. This character is refreshing and something really out of the box for an average bollywood movie watcher and much of the film's appeal comes from the witty humor and style showcased by Saif Ali Khan. 

The best thing about the film is that it's life flowing on celluloid. Dialogues by Ritesh Shah are simple, funny and witty. Characters are believable and the natural landscape of Kerala put on screen by Cinematographer Priya Seth is alluring. Roshan Kalra's scenes with his son who he had rarely spent time with  are endearing and sketches a beautiful relationship between a father and son where both understand each other's perspective. 

On the flip side, the film starts to falter after the interval. The story meanders without much of a clarity about where it is heading. The screenplay is inconsistent losing the common thread and a motive, concentrating only on the scenes between characters and not the entire story. Indeed they are fun but where are we all going ? Also the very thing the film is based on – Food, there aren't many scenes celebrating food. The delicious shots of cooking, colors on a plate, the process of putting the spices together, the variety of edibles, the creativity of a chef, his inspiration; we are made to be drawn more towards the chef's personal life than the food that he cooks and that is such an opportunity lost. Shots of good food can really make for great visual imagery and here is where the director loses out on a few points. But Saif's wit and dialogue delivery often makes up for this vacuum.

Also the end to the film is  a hurried climax signifying that director had bitten off more than he could chew. All characters come in one scene with some of them behaving exactly opposite of the brief given to them in the beginning of the film.

It’s a slice of life worth eating while we know it could have been so much more delicious.

3 Stars