Movie Review: Chef….Not Bad But It Gets Much Too Sugary For Comfort

Count your blessings. Saif Ali Khan is efficient enough in this weakly scripted buffet of a movie...

two point five stars

Voila! A dude from Chandni Chowk, now the life-‘n’-soul curry of a New York restaurant, has major anger management issues. So when his meal makes a tetchy customer squeal, it leads to a big brawl scene. Tujhe jalaakar raakh kar doonga-types. Gripe.

A haute cuisine-cum-human-relationships drama, Chef  is directed glossily enough by Raja Krishna Menon (yeah, he piloted Airlift). Scripted by him with a couple of writers,  the outcome’s quite a bland, at times excessively sugary broth.

Unless you were hibernating under a rock,  you’re already clued into the fact that this Bollywood fare has been officially desified from Jon Favreau’s 2014 American spare ribs-tickler of the same-to-same name.  Ahem.

a still from chef
A Still From Chef

Believe me, it would be pointless to carp, hey but what’s within the realm of possibility abroad may seem pretty far-fetched in these parts.  It happens. Still, adaptations are tricky business: meaning where-o-where will you find a cool food-truck, manned by a Michelin-starred khansama vending khaana-peena, on the roadsides? Dhabas, thelas and stalls, sure, but meals on wheels as far as I know are restricted to the home delivery circuit. Anyway, khaane bhi do yaaron.

Back to the angry New Yorker, Roshan Kalra (Saif Ali Khan), whose screen name  could well be a homage to Delhi’s gastronome and restaurater Jiggs Kalra. Jet-hops he to Cochin, to relight the fire with his estranged, twinkle-toed wife (Padmapriya Janakiraman, impressive) and their knee-high son (Svar Kamble, eminently likeable). Truly, the kiddo’s adorable, thanks to his expressive saucer eyes and a pudding-bowl hair-cut. No tut tut here. So far, so cute.

Now against the lush backdrop of Cochi, the reason why Kalra ko gussa kyon aata hai is hardly explicated. The script doesn’t bother to delve into the backstory of his separation from his Mrs Twinkle Toes either. Evidently, the writing’s now desperate to keep the pot boiling, with two main ingredients. One to repair the chef’s relationship with his near-‘n’- dear ones. And second, to convince you that our Kalra dude is a foodie genius, capable of fusing a roti and pizza to invent an edible called…huh, Rotzaa. How ingenious is that?

saif ali khan in chef

Saif Ali Khan In Chef

Much is made about the chef’s regard for garma garam Sholay bathure of purani Delhi. Plus, there’s much dicing, splicing, peppering, salting and the marinating of ingredients. Curiously, though, this food movie merely made me wish I was re-watching Rajesh Khanna do his Bawarchi number, or to a degree Amitabh Bachchan’s heart going dhak dhak over Tabu in Cheeni Kum. Yum.

On the upside, apna Chef is engaging intermittently, dhaniyavaad to the supporting acts of Milind Soman as the suitor of Lady Twinkle Toes, and Chandan Roy Sanyal and theatre veteran Bajaj. Above all, many of the sequences between Kalra and his son, do spark an emotional frisson.

Technically polished, the film is fluidly photographed by Priya Seth. The sound mixing and editing are also of the highest order.

saif ali khan with svar kamble in chef
Saif Ali Khan With Svar Kamble In Chef

It’s the story – which should be the marrow of any movie – which alas, comes off as patently implausible. Kuch cheeni zyaada is sprinkled over an uncool dad attempt to turn over a new kadhi patta.

Alright, director Menon food-lifts here, though his assured visual style indicates that he’s capable of much more than merely warming up derivative leftovers.

Inevitably Chef Ali Khan, shown to be confronted with mid-life issues,  has to carry the buffet on his shoulders, which he does efficiently enough. Period.

Unsolicited suggestion: see Chef, only if you’re assailed by severe hunger pangs.

Image Source: youtube/t-series