Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Padmapriya Jankiraman, Svar Kamble, Chandan Roy Sanyal
Director: Raja Krishna Menon
Running Time: 2 hrs 13 mins
Rating: 3 stars
This ‘Bollywood’ dish aint cooking up a storm!
Chef is originally a 2014 Hollywood film directed by and starring Jon Favreau. It’s the story of chef de cuisine Carl Casper who is stripped off his job and loses credibility after getting into a Twitter war and a public spat with caustic food critic, Ramsey Michel. Add to that, the matter of not giving enough time to his son, who lives with his ex wife. When Chef Casper his left high and dry by his chef fraternity, he reluctantly takes up an offer to start a food truck and it’s the beginning of a rather eventful journey of father-son bonding and rediscovering his cooking mojo. Of course, there is Scarlet Johansson, Sofia Vergara, Dustin Hoffman and Robert Downey Jr adding to the sumptuous mix. In all, a feel good film.
In the Bollywood version, we start off bang in the middle of Chandni Chowk and Chole Bhature. And much to distress of his father, 15-year-old Roshan Kalra would rather be learning how to knead some dough, than go to school. When things to come to a head between father and son, a teenage Roshan runs away from home to follow his dreams. Cut straight to the US, where Roshan Kalra (Saif), now a 3 Michelin star chef is punching a customer who complains about his food and gets fired in the process. There is no backstory as to what leads to Roshan’s sudden flare up – which was shown as slow build up in the original. There are a few more abrupt and choppy instances in the screenplay. Like when Roshan discovers that his son Armaan, who’s been living in Cochin with his mother and growing up on rasam and idiappams, has never tasted Chole Bhature. Suddenly in the next shot they are seen walking into a crowded street – which is Chandi Chowk to savor some of it! Cut to an underwhelming father- son clash scene between Roshan and his aged father and bang the next scene Roshan and Armaan are at the Golden Temple in Amritsar to have some langad. Another grouse would be there is no real reason shown for Roshan to start from scratch on a food truck, given that his reputation is not really punched to that extent.
With most of the first half spent working out Saif’s strained relations – with his father, his son, his wife and just some half hearted shots of food here and there – it leaves one asking for more. Especially given that the 2014 Hollywood version had a most delectably shot sequence of Chef Casper cooking up the menu of his dreams. Right after his online fracas with the reviewer. The storyline of our desi Chef seems undecided on what to focus – a little lost like its protagonist.
But wait. There is redemption. The relationship between Roshan and his ex wife Radha (Padmapriya) is played out rather nicely and Milind Soman packs in a hunky appearance. Armaan (Svar)and Roshan share a wonderful father and son chemistry. Some of the wry understated humor works too. Including the subtle bits where Saif references his own movies Love Aaj Kal and Dil Chahta Hai in matter of fact fashion. A chunk of the film is set in Cochin and cinematography captures the breathtaking beauty of the backwaters. The second half picks up steam especially with the panoramic road-trip sequences, injected with a couple of bites of food history and culture and a few well-done food shots that do make you hungry and feel like biting into some ‘Kheema Rotzaa’ – a cross between a roti and pizza that Chef Kalra cooks up to sell on his food truck.
Saif is comfortable and charming as the 40 yr old father and ex husband wanting to make amends. Padmapriya makes a breezy Bollywood debut and is beautiful as the Malyalam single mom and dancer. Milind Sonam is dashing but mysteriously falls off the screenplay somewhere in between. Chandan Roy Sanyal just is – no extra flavor or nuance there. Svar as the floppy haired Armaan is cute and earnest. Just that the original version was a tad saucier, pacier and had a tighter screenplay. 2017’s Bollywood remake of Chef is sweet but it ends up like a cake that’s in the oven long enough and still comes off a little half baked – some binding agent perhaps?