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Chef Movie Review: Saif’s Careers Best In Heartwarming Culinary Drama!



Chef Movie Review: There is a lot of teasing between the father and son ,played with endearing casualness by Saif Ali Khan and Svar Kamble.Aptly , Chef teases our appetite for cinema. It’s a culinary delight—warm tender, inviting and appetizing– served  up in a dainty dish with a dash of debonair but played-down posturing, like  a masterchef who is shy to show off his skills but can’t help it. He’s so adept at what he  does.

Movie: Chef

 Starring: Saif Ali Khan, Padmapriya Janakiraman, Svar Kamble

Directed by: Raja Krishna Menon

Rating: **** ½(four and a half stars)

Chef conveys the kind of sagacious  skill born not out of arrogance but wisdom sometimes misplaced.Like the protagonist Roshan Kalra’s traditionalist father who believes the kitchen is for women.

Speaking  of which—arrogance more than wisdom—Saif Ali Khan’s Roshan Kalra(from Chandni Chowk Delhi married to and divorced  from the lovely Malayali danseuse Radha Menon)  is  portrayed as an  epitome of  prideful arrogance waiting to fall.

The fall comes sooner than we expect. Director Menon wastes no time in taking on his protagonist’s burnished ego and cutting it down to size, piece  by  piece.

Come to think  of it,Roshan’s downsizing needs no push. Saif Ali Khan’s inbuilt nawabi pride and  an urbane  humour that often hurts others in ways that are more permanent than permissible,seize the character to make it so imminentlyrelatable ,I felt someone had stolen parts of my life.Saif’s Roshan says things to earn points as a clever conversationalist. Much like the prestigious Michelin star rating for food which determines quality to the point of rendering the pleasure of food  into an exercize  in technical grading .

And here’s where director Menon and his co-writers Ritesh Shah and Suresh Nair score resoundingly over the original Jon Favreau film. Food, as a cultural binder, is a far more vital metaphor  in  India  than in America. Instinctively,Menon  understands the deep and indelible  connection between food and family in our culture.

Much in the same way that music binds human relationships, food is great unifier .

The narrative teases the cooking and food into the human relationships without making culinary conceits a fetish in  the plot. Food is vital  but not in-your-face in Menon’s Chef. This  director understands the difference between appetites and feelings. He tightens the screw on his protagonist’s arrogance whenever Roshan Kalra’s failings become the food for his feelings.

This guy,played so intelligently and  persuasively  by Saif, doesn’t know  where to stop. Sometimes the banter between Saif’s Roshan and those close to him, turns ugly.  But that’s life. The relationships that govern  our existence are not always based on sweetness and positivity. The dark side is always there, lurking in the corners of life…lurking lightly and gently at  the backdrop of Raja Krishna Menon’s fourth feature film(he actually came into his own with his third,Airlift).

It is to Menon’s credit that he keeps the proceeds  airy and  light on the top  but allows us a peep into the darkness beneath just when we begin to savour the blitheness. The father-son relationship is paramount to the  plot. It works with blessed vigour . Saif and the boy Svar Kamble  look and feel for their parts.They are born to play a family.

Menon is not impatient to tell Roshan Kalra’s story. The narrative’s pace in unhurried  but never dull. There is a lingering grace to the mise en scene. And I refer  not  just to the father-son scenes. Saif’s longish sequence with his girlfriend(Sobhita Dhulipala) in New York after she takes over his chef’s job in  a restaurant where he altercates with a client, is written with so  many subtextual interjections and prickly hurt-points polished down to injury-proofness, it’s like walking a terrain mined with explosives .

I only wish the music and songs were better. If food is seen  as  the strongest cultural metaphor  in  Chef, music which has been described by a wise man as the food of love , gets a raw deal here. Also  the climactic denouement(airport run, traffic snarl, breathless reunion) could have been avoided in a film that pretty much dodges all the signposts of smart-mart filmmaking to  forge its own languorous grocery-store  language of estrangement and reconciliation.

A major of  the film’s lingering charm emanates  from the casting.Menon has cast so authentically it almost feels as  though the actors were destined to play these parts.Whether it’s Saif’s Punjabi chef or his screen wife,  the very elegant Padmapriya’s  as his Malayali  wife, or Chandan Roy Sanyal as Saif’s faithful Bangladeshi pal, or Dinesh Prabhakar as the sodden cantankerous but ultimately  goodhearted driver chosen to man Roshan’s mobile bus-restaurant…they all exude the  scent of supremely believability without making a song-and-dance  of  it(wish they could ,though,  if only the music didn’t let them down).

And yes , cinematographer Priya Seth gives us  one more reason to  celebrate  life. Kerala  has never looked  more inviting. After watching Kerala play the lead in Chef(with due respect to Saif) I’ve decided to head there.Preferably  with my child.

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