Written by Manisha Lakhe
If This Film Were On Masterchef Australia, It Wouldn’t Win An Apron!
A remake of Jon Favreau’s film by the same name, this film is more of a kitchen disaster than a chef’s signature dish. Like the original, chef Saif Ali Khan gets into an argument with a customer in New York and ends up running a food truck and traveling with his son. But that’s where the similarity ends. The food they make is so awful you will not believe he’s a three Michelin star chef. Unappetising!
Jon Favreau’s film Chef was full of food scenes – the buying of fresh produce, the preparation of the food, the cooking, the presentation as well – and they were delicious, colorwise and otherwise. If you watched onions being caramelised, you could almost smell them as well as taste the sauces being poured over protein. The sizzle, the smoke and the presentation of the foods is so amazing, you emerge from the theatre, hungry. A simple thing like the cheese sandwich Chef Casper makes for his son makes the audience drool.
The Hindi version starts out similarly where Saif Ali Khan punches a customer and loses his job as a chef of a New York restaurant. We don’t know what dish it was, and why the customer hated it. You remember Jon Favreau take that Lava cake and lose his temper at the food critic.
Saif Ali Khan then goes home and makes pasta. If you’ve ever watched a TV show called Masterchef Australia (or for that matter Masterchef USA where even the kids make their own pasta) you’d have a heart attack watching a supposedly three Michelin star chef open a ready made packet of pasta. You begin to shake your head but hope the film will turn out to be as delicious as the American Food truck Adventure.
Yes, there’s a son who needs his dad and his dad need to find his lost mojo by figuring out what is it that he really wants to cook, but when the misery of the chef goes on and on and on and the word ‘Interval’ shows up on the screen, you have seen no sign of food, you begin to get restless. No amount of references to Saif’s role in Dil Chahta Hai works on an audience waiting to see food. Yes the chef is offered a double decker bus to use as a mobile restaurant by the ex wife’s supposed paramour, just as in the original movie. Milind Soman is that paramour and his easy charismatic presence offers some visual relief. The chef in the meanwhile has cooked nothing.
It’s only when he suddenly loses his temper at his son, when he steps into a beautiful old fashioned wood fired kitchen with a bowl of veggies/meat with gravy that he makes roti and spreads the veggies, grates Amul Cheese (yes, this film has many brands shamelessly endorsed!) over the veggies and slaps another roti over it, cuts the roti sandwich in four parts and serves it to the son (again, drooling over the cheese sandwich the chef in the original film makes for his son). And voila! He decides that is what he’s going to serve people as they drive from Cochin in Kerala to Delhi in the North. Before you facepalm, you remember how Chef Casper figures out he is going to make Cubanos.
All of a sudden, the child (who you wish pinned his long hair if her were working anywhere near a kitchen) tells Saif, he uploaded the video and has geotagged the vehicle so people will line up for the roti sandwich. Really? That unappetising looking quarter of a roti? Whilst the original gave you reason to visit (in real life) the places they showed on film to taste the foods (for example, the beignets in New Orleans), this film is just a poor shadow of the original. Such a waste of an opportunity, because you hope the chef will serve the tomato chutney he makes at the dhaba in Amritsar to his customers at the food truck. He doesn’t.
The movie comes at the back of a Bengali film called Maacher Jhol that has a very similar plotline (a chef flies back to Kolkata and his mother who is diagnosed with a brain tumor requests him to make a fish gravy dish called ‘Jhol’, and he makes the curry again and again in order to please his mother looking for the perfect taste) which has been made so wonderfully, even vegetarians look at the food scenes on the screen longingly, and laugh and cry with the emotional connect and the lack thereof with his family. Here, Saif Ali Khan just does convince us that he loves cooking, or his food truck team care about anything. The whole effort is bland and unappetising.
(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)