“Tum Chandni chowk ke Roshan Kalra ke only puttar ho kar aisi baatein nahin kar sakte,” Saif Ali Khan tells his son, who doesn’t know what chole bhature is.
In this official adaptation of Jon Favreau’s Chef, food is meant to mend relationships and rejuvenate the soul.
We meet Roshan, confused after he was fired from a restaurant for punching a man for criticising his food. With nothing on his plate (pun intended), he decides to head to Kochi to meet his ex-wife (Padmapriya Janakiraman) and son (Svar Kamble).
This is where the most flavoursome bits of Chef begin.
Priya Seth’s luxuriating frames capture the beauty of Kerala, while writers Ritesh Shah, Suresh Nair, along with director Raja Krishna Menon, do a good job of moulding the story to suit the Indian palate. The film also ropes in Milind Soman to add some of his irresistible charm and sensuality.
The south to north food ‘pilgrimage’ – that spans from idiyappam and fish curry to dhabe ka dal fry and lassi – keeps us hooked.
While the narrative is always sweet, one can’t help but feel like something’s missing. Could it be because for a film that has a Michelin Star-winning chef as its protagonist, Chef has precious little swashbuckling in the kitchen? Saif is almost always shown either placidly twirling pasta or dexterously chopping – his bond with food seems more acquired than maniacally organic.
The sensory marvel that preparing great meal conjures up, the sights and smells of the process – all of it appears distant thanks to the brusque portrayal.
While the inadequacies in the writing department give the film a disjointed look, the performances and casting are on point.
Saif is at ease as Roshan; there is an endearing quality to his vulnerability and silent guilt about failing as a husband and a father. Svar Kamble and Padmapriya Janakiraman are impressive and Chandan Roy Sanyal (Roshan’s best friend) and Dinesh Nair (food truck driver) are welcome additions. A fastidious connoisseur of food and films might find Chef lacking in flavour, but its unhurried pace and simple story about a father-son relationship makes this worthy of a one-time watch .
Verdict: 3 Quints out of 5.