Saif’s Chef

Once in 2014 there was a Jon Favreau Hollywood film called Chef. Come 2017, our desi director Raja Krishna Menon has attempted what he calls a “not so faithful remake” of the film starring Saif Ali Khan as the Chef. And since it is not so faithful to the original movie, our Bollywood version works quite well.

Many things work well in the film. The chief one being Saif himself. Last few movies of the Nawab have been poor outings to the box office. But Chef is something where you glimpse the old charm of Saif. His boyish charm of Dil Chahata Hai, his regal elan of Parineeta, the arrogance of Kya Kehna, the innocence of KHNH and his youthful exuberance of Salaam Namaste : all the varied avatars are in display, in bits and pieces in Chef. Saif carries the entire movie on his shoulders. And you want the movie to succeed, as you want to continue to see this multi-faceted actor, in his many more roles.

Another reason this movie works is as Indians we are always focused on and fascinated with food. Chef panders to that hubris. Whether it is Chandni Chowk’s Chhole Bhature or the Iddiappams of Kerala or the newly innovated Rotazza (Roti Pizza) :- food plays as important a role in the movie, as it does in every Indian’s life! The angst of a 3 Michelin star Chef when a customer dares to say the food is not as good as it used to be is as genuine as is the love with which Saif cooks and serves pasta for his friend in NY or his wife in Kerala. Our traditional love of food showcased so centrally, resonates well with the viewer, even as it drives the story forward.

Besides food, for us Indians, what matters is family and friends. And the family values and importance of relationships in our lives are subtly emphasized throughout the movie. The father and son relationship of 2 generations of Kalras: Saif with his father and Saif with his son are emotionally brought out. {Is it by chance that the rapprochements between both the generations of Kalras also happen due to food: when Armaan eats the Rotazza invented by his father Roshan after they have had a bitter argument;  and, the life long anger of the senior Kalra dissolves when he eats the Rotazza in Delhi and finally smiles and accepts the journey traveled by Roshan.} The beauty of relationships is also lovingly brought out by Ramkumar Chacha who teaches Roshan to cook or his Bangladeshi assistant who follows him from NY to Kerala. Other examples abound: Roshan’s lady colleague in the hotel in NY and her support of Roshan in his difficult times; Milind Soman’s support of Roshan’s ex wife, Radha; Radha’s own unrequited affection for Roshan being rekindled when he returns to India: all these sub plots underline the importance of relationships in the movie and lovingly reflect the importance of relationships in our Indian ethos.

Chef begins in NY and takes us to Kochi. From Kochi via the food truck we are taken into the lush green and watery backfields of Kerala.  After a brief sojourn in Goa we go right upto Delhi. The story unfolds on the lovely backdrop of changing scenery. The snow of Manhattan, the fishing nets of Kochi, the backwaters of Kerala, the winding roads of Goa, the Golden Temple : all leave a loving mark in your memory. The journey of Rohan Kalra is thus not only mental but a physically remarkable journey: pleasing to the eye as is pleasing to the heart.

Full kudos to the writers Ritesh Shah and Suresh Nair. Their script and characterization is totally real and believable. There is no melodrama. There is no pontification. Situations happen and are shown on an “as it happens” basis. The Kerala unions objecting to the domestic servants cleaning the bus;  entire Milind Soman’s character as the friend of Padmapriya the ex-wife; the drinking and brash driver of the food truck who leaves no opportunity to challenge  and question Saif; the Kerala food sampler who questions why he should accept/eat free food but then loves what he gets; the colleague in NY’s Galli restaurant who frankly tells Roshan she is sad for Roshan losing his job but happy that she got a chance to to take over or even the way Radha the ex-wife role is written: all totally matter of fact and practical: memorable but not over the top – all add to the charm of the movie.

Though the blurbs and publicity call Chef a “comedy” this is not your typical rib tickling fare. There are enough sparkling dialogues which make you chuckle. Yet the movie works because it is a series of normal day-to-day believable situations enacted out by simple and truthful characters. The movie works because the entire story hangs together well and entertains you without being preachy, at any time. The first half is a trifle slow. But you exit the movie hall with a smile: 2 and quarter hours well spent and enjoyed :  watching this delightful caper.

Safe to watch Saif playing Chef : you will not regret your decision : vikas

11 Replies to “Saif’s Chef”

  1. You are right, Vikas dada, I did not regret watching it!
    You have captured the value proposition of the movie so well that there is nothing more I can add to it. A very genuine effort at movie making and acting by Saif. He has matured well over the years.

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    1. Thanks a lot Nilu. Agree Saif has come a long way from his Mai Chor Tu Sipahi days with Akshay. I was taken in by his understated performance.And the roving script. Relationships are explored so well that i fell into he narrative very quickly

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      1. Aap ke muh me ghee shakkar…have always been a movie buff…but thanks for your vote of confidence… and kind words

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  2. Enjoyed the blog and analysis a lot more than the movie, which I felt was conceptually good but not engaging…

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  3. Liked the way you presented. I didn’t have any idea to watch this movie, until reading this blog of yours, Gonna add it to my list. Thanks !!!

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  4. Puja the movie is about relationships. Fathers & sons; Wife & ex; Colleagues and friends. For an HR person it is a great exposition. Do see it and et me know what you felt

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  5. Thank you for sharing the review on movie. As you were narrating I could visualize and bow thinking soon to get on watching chef

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